Despite Opposition, Abortion Waiting Period Bill Passes First Senate Panel

Mar 31, 2015

Barbara Devane (left) of Florida NOW and Terri Wonder representing the Manatee County's Democratic Women's Club as well as the Democratic Women's Club of Florida speaking to reporters Tuesday, following a Senate hearing.
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

A controversial abortion bill passed its first Senate committee Tuesday, despite much opposition.

“It’s my decision,” said one frustrated woman, following the Senate hearing. “It’s my body. It’s my abortion. It’s my time!”

Many opponents—mainly women—were not too happy when their time was cut short during the Senate Health Policy Committee and felt they could not voice their opposition to a bill requiring a woman to meet with physicians and then wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is the bill’s sponsor.

“I had heard horror stories from women who regret their decision because they come in and say that they regretted their decision,” said Flores. “And, so, we want to ensure that women are not just aware of the psychological effects, but that they’re aware of the medical and physical effects as well.”

Here’s the testimony of Julie Costas, a Tallahassee woman—the only one allowed to speak in favor of the bill during Tuesday’s committee hearing.

Julie Costas, a Tallahasee lawyer, testifying during a Senate hearing in favor of the abortion waiting period bill.
Credit Florida Channel

“I had an abortion over 30 years ago, and years later, I came to regret that decision,” said Costas. “I was a new lawyer, and I just gotten sworn in and it was solely or selfish reasons that I chose to terminate my pregnancy. I believed the big lie that it was just a blob of tissue. Who knows if I would have changed my mind if I had received information about the procedure’s risk and the baby’s gestational age from a physician and then would have been required to wait 24 hours before ending my pregnancy?”

But, Dr. Christopher Estes—the Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood of South Florida—says lawmakers need to trust women.

“I see women with all sorts of different reproductive health needs, but there’s one thing that remains constant, and that’s that we must trust their decisions,” said Estes. “We have to trust women—that she has had a consultation with her medical provider, with her family, and her faith, and she knows whether or not to it’s right for her to carry a pregnancy to term.”

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) also had a few words to say on the subject, citing the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing the abortion procedure.

“This bill is just another impediment in a continuing effort to erode a woman’s right to choose…we need to stop! The Supreme Court has said it’s lawful and legal, and we need to just move on and let women decide what is in their best interest,” said Joyner, to multiple cheers.

Still, Senator Flores says it was a decision by the High Court that factored into her making this decision.

“Well, it’s something that 26 other states do,” said Flores. “The Supreme Court has said a 24-hour reflection period is something that isn’t an undue burden. So, we’re using our state’s ability and our right to do what the Supreme Court has said legally that we can.”

Because of the 24 hour waiting period, women would have to make two visits to have the abortion. An amendment by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) failed in trying to “decrease that burden.”

And, the measure passed the Senate Health Policy Committee 5-3 along party lines with Democrats opposed. Meanwhile, its House companion is expected to have its last committee hearing Wednesday.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.