A couple of abortion-related measures are moving in the Florida Legislature, while others appear stalled. One bill inspired by the so-called “abortion pill victim” is already heading to the House floor and its companion could be taken up on the Senate floor next week. Another measure dealing with late-term abortions just cleared its first House panel, but has yet to get its first hearing in the Senate.
Unborn Victims of Violence Act
Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) is the Senate sponsor of the “Florida’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act.”
“Basically, what it does is says that if a violent act happens against a woman and she is pregnant, and causes the loss of her unborn child. It is a separate offense for the unborn child as well,” said Stargel.
Remee Lee is a huge backer of the bill. She says she remembers how happy she was when she found out she was pregnant. She’d even picked out a name for her baby: Memphis Remington. But, when she was around 6 weeks pregnant, her ex-boyfriend John Welden gave her a pill to terminate the pregnancy that was disguised as an antibiotic.
“I’ve been dubbed the ‘abortion pill victim’ by the media, and it’s a moniker I don’t really like because I don’t feel like I’m the ‘abortion pill victim,'" said a tearful Lee. "Memphis is the one who’s the ‘abortion pill victim.’ He’s the one who paid the ultimate price, and isn’t here, although he really wanted to be here.”
So, she says this bill needs to become law to help pregnant women avoid the same feeling she experiences every day, especially since there’s nothing in statute to get justice for victims, like her.
“All night Easter Sunday, as I lay bleeding in the hospital, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detectives went to Mr. Welden’s house, and they had him in the back of their squad car. And, they interviewed him, and he admitted to poisoning me. His intent was to kill our unborn child, and there was nothing they could do. They had to let him go back in his house," added Lee.
Lee says it was only about a month and a half later, her ex was brought up on federal—not state—charges for product tampering and mail fraud.
“So, he was sentenced to 13 years and eight months. But, I’m the one who got the life sentence because I’m the one who has to deal with this for the rest of my life. These memories will never go away, this hurt will never go away,” said Lee.
Despite some concerns about “knowledge” and “intent” by Democrats, the measure cleared the Senate Rules committee on a mostly party-line vote.
Meanwhile, a House panel vetted a measure aimed at changing the state’s abortion law to essentially make it illegal to terminate a viable fetus that can survive outside the womb through standard medical care.
Under present Florida law, it’s only illegal to perform an abortion after the third trimester, or 24-weeks of pregnancy. Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) is the bill’s sponsor.
“This bill simply codifies state law to align with both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court. The courts have decided that Florida has the right to protect life beginning at the point of viability. This bill does just that,” said Adkins.
Bill Supporter, Katherine Van Zant, is the wife of Rep. Representative Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights), who for years has been filing bills to ban all abortions in Florida. She says as a counselor of women, she hears heart wrenching stories all the time.
“And, the most heartbreaking situations that I have with these women is when they come to me and say ‘Mrs. Van Zant, I have a secret I have never told anybody else. I’ve had an abortion, or two, or three, and I can’t get that baby out of my mind. That baby stays in front of me.’ Don’t put the women you care about in the position of having to live with the death of a viable baby,” said Van Zant.
But, Barbara Devane, representing the Florida chapter of the National Organization of Women, or Florida NOW, disagrees.
“As a woman who’s had an abortion, and has a very sane mind, no mental health problems, no alcohol problems, I waive in opposition,” said DeVane.
Democrats on the panel also spoke out against the bill, saying they don’t see why the bill is needed. According to the state Department of Health, more than 71,000 abortions were performed in Florida last year—none of which were performed for a woman in her third trimester. But, Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) says even if a woman needed to make that decision, lawmakers shouldn’t get involved.
“I would say for any family that has gone that long into a pregnancy and if a decision was made to have an abortion at that point, it’s for a very serious issue. And, I just would hope that we recognize that we have already addressed the issue of third trimester abortions and the numbers speak for themselves,” said Jones.
Still, the measure passed the House Health and Human Services Committee 12-5 with Democrats opposed. It has one more stop before heading to the floor. Meanwhile, its Senate companion, which was stalled in its first committee, has its next hearing Tuesday.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.