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Three Abortion-Related Bills Clear Florida House Committees

A couple of House panels took up several bills Wednesday that were abortion-related. They include a ban on having an abortion based on sex or gender and another that would require the care for infants born alive after an abortion procedure. While all the bills passed out of their respective committees, it was not without controversy. 

In two Wednesday morning committees, three measures related to abortion got taken up. The first was a proposal by Republican Representative Charles Van Zant of Keystone Heights. House Bill 845 would prohibit a person from knowingly performing an abortion unless they signed a statement, swearing they did not perform the procedure due to the child’s sex or race. Violators could face a third degree felony charge and up to a 10-thousand dollar fine.

But, opponents of the bill call it a “discriminatory proposal.” They claim it could require doctors to become investigators and make patients their suspects.

And, Democratic Representative Irv Slosberg was of the same opinion.

“This is so racist and sexist. It’s basically implying by stature that women and minorities want to treat their babies like second-class citizens,” said Slosberg.        

Other opponents talked about how the bill’s sponsor did not have any evidence of how often such a thing occurs. Proponents, like Republican Representative James Grant, say that shouldn’t matter.

“I don’t know to the extent that these procedures that are happening. Representative Slosberg asked a question about the experts involved. I don’t know the experts involved. I don’t know the number of race or gender-determined abortions that are happening, but one’s enough. One’s enough,” said Grant.

That bill passed on an 8 to 5 party line vote with Democrats opposed in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The second measure the panel took up was House Bill 759 sponsored by Republican Representative Larry Ahern.

Under Florida law, it’s a crime to cause or contribute to the death of what’s called an “unborn quick child.”

An unborn quick child” is defined as a fetus that can live outside the womb.

Ahern’s bill would change “unborn quick child” to “an unborn child.

Some described that bill as having “very broad language” for the definition of an unborn child, and hoped to work with the sponsor in tightening up the language. That included Missy Wesolowski with Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood.

“It seems that the real purpose of this legislation is not to protect women, but to politicize violent crimes, especially those against pregnant women. For example, by defining ‘unborn child’ in this legislation to ‘member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb,’ this bill gives separate legal protections for a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus,” said Wesolowski.

And, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, the committee’s chair, says he want to put the bill in perspective.

“Just for a moment, imagine being a husband, who lost a wife who was pregnant. You haven’t just lost the opportunity to take walks and share iced tea with your wife. You’ve lost the opportunity to take pictures of your daughter on her Prom Day. You’ve lost the opportunity to teach your son how to play baseball who was unborn and who was killed," said Gaetz.

The bill passed 9 to 4 mostly along party lines. And, lastly, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee took up House Bill 1129. Its sponsor is Republican Representative Cary Pigman.

“I tried to strenuously maintain that all activities of this proposed bill happen after the abortion. My interest in this bill is to solely and strictly to provide care for that infant that is born alive, following any procedure, that it receives full and appropriate resuscitation,” said Pigman.

Pigman’s bill states that any infant born alive must be taken to a hospital and immediately placed under the care of social services.

But, some like Democratic Representative Jim Waldman disagreed with that, saying the mother should at least have an opportunity to decide whether she wants to keep the newborn baby, before the baby could be taken away.

“We’re going to say just because we have a suspicion—and that’s the words Representative Pigman used—that that person wouldn’t have the best interest of that child at heart, we’re going to take that child away. That’s not what we should be doing in the Legislature,” said Waldman.

The bill passed favorably with 10 to 2 in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee with bipartisan support, and two dissenting votes from Democrats.

Meanwhile, many opponents of all three bills say they’re going to work with the sponsors before they head to their next committee stops.

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

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.