WFSU News Team
Tue April 8, 2014
More Gun Bills Head For Floor Votes; Abortion Bill Getting Closer As Well
A group of Florida lawmakers passed a slew of measures Tuesday, including a controversial abortion bill. They also moved a series of gun-related measures to the Senate floor, including the so-called ‘Pop Tart’ bill.
Late-Term Abortion Bill
The measure essentially banning late-term abortion is already heading for a floor vote in the House, and now has one more committee stop in the Senate, after it passed the Senate Judiciary Tuesday.
Still, it drew passionate exchanges from both sides. The bill’s author, Miami Republican Senator Anitere Flores, calls it a pro-life bill that’s in line with several court decisions and limits the circumstances when abortions can be performed.
“Currently, abortions in the state of Florida cannot be performed after 24 weeks with exceptions made to save the life of the mother. What this bill does is that it moves that timetable to the time of viability and what the bill would require is for the physician performing the abortion to determine viability and if in his/her best medical judgment, the fetus is viable, they cannot perform an abortion," said Flores. "Currently, that time period is somewhere between the 20-week range. We feel this is better public policy, and rather than having a black and white line, it is something that can evolve as medical advances evolve.”
Democrats opposed the measure, including Tampa Senator Arthenia Joyner. She says she has a huge problem with how the bill puts what she calls “unnecessary restrictions” on women seeking an abortion—a decision she says should be between the woman and her doctor. To make her point, she shared a story about a Nebraska woman. At 22-weeks pregnant, Danielle Deaver's water broke and tests showed there was a severe fetal anomaly.
“The fetus was likely to be born unable to move their limbs. The fetus would likely suffer, likely facing deformities to the head, face, lungs were unlikely to develop beyond the 22-week point. The couple with their doctor explored every possible option to save the pregnancy. However, there was less than a one-percent chance that if born the baby would be able to breathe on its own, and only a two-percent chance that the baby would be able to eat on its own.”
And, Joyner says the couple later decided to terminate the pregnancy and asked the doctor for help.
“And, the doctor’s response was ‘no, I can’t’ because in Nebraska, in recent law—similar to this one that is before us today—they had no recourse to avert the pain and suffering that was to follow. And, eight days after Danielle endured intense pain and infection, her daughter Elizabeth was born and she survived for 15 minutes,” Joyner added.
But, bill supporter, Brandon Republican Senator Tom Lee shared a story of his own.
“I am married to a woman who was a premature baby and her parents were encouraged to abort her and she is one of the most productive members of American society I will ever meet. She’s hit it out of the park with everything she’s touched her whole life, and because of her parents value system, she’s here on this earth, she’s my wife, and we have a beautiful 20-month child. So, there are stories everywhere, all over, tragic and glorious,” said Lee.
"Pop Tart" bill
The so-called ‘Pop Tart’ bill also came up in the committee Lee chairs, the measure’s last stop. And Senator Joyner had some concerns as well. She says she supports the part that seeks to bring common sense to schools’ zero-tolerance policies and not punish kids who simulate firearms or wear a shirt with a picture of a gun on it.
But, Joyner says she worries over a provision that she says takes away from the overall message of the bill because it brings in another level of disciplinary action. It allows students to be disciplined if simulating a firearm or weapon while playing disrupts the classroom, causes another bodily harm, or places another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
“That’s going to be subjective. Some could get punished. Some others could not. Until we tie that down better than this, then I can’t support the bill,” said Joyner.
But, bill sponsor, Baker Republican Senator Greg Evers says that part of the measure is only there if the child gets too unruly and gives school administrators the recourse needed to make sure the child doesn’t cause further disruption.
“It’s all about the disruption of the classroom in the educational process where the kids are learning…So, as long as it’s not disrupting the classroom—because right now, we have a zero-tolerance. If I point my finger at you, I can be expelled. I can actually be taken out of that school and put in the DJJ,” replied Evers.
The measure passed 8-1 with Joyner the only one opposed. The bill had already passed the House last month.
Other Gun Bills
Meanwhile, a couple of other gun-related measures also received Senate approval to move onto the floor. One allows tax collectors to help the state’s Agriculture Department in processing concealed weapon permit applications to meet increased demand.
Another more controversial bill seeks to allow people to carry their firearm concealed on their person without a permit during a declared state of emergency. Its House companion is expected to be taken up on the floor Wednesday.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.