Perhaps because it's an election year, the GOP-led Florida Legislature seemed to be on their best behavior when it came to voting on divisive "wedge" issues. But that doesn't mean they went cold turkey. Two bills restricting abortion rights that were passed and will soon be signed into law were bashed by a trio of Florida Democratic women during a conference call this morning.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the legislation "especially hurtful and harmful to what is happening in my home state," saying that, as a breast cancer survivor, women's health is paramount to her.
"These two bills that Governor Scott is expected to sign are yet another example of how he and his Republican Party of Florida are failing Florida's middle class," she added.
was called the Unborn Victims of Violence bill, which recognizes the death or injury (due to violence or vehicular homicide) of an unborn child as the death or injury of a second person. After being debated over the past six legislative sessions, the Legislature passed the bill, sponsored by Republicans Larry Ahern (St.Petersburg) in the House and Kelli Stargel (Lakeland) in the Senate. It was sparked this time by a case in Tampa, wherein Remee Jo Lee
had her child aborted unwittingly by taking a drug given to her by her then-boyfriend. The drug was marked as amoxicillin, when in reality it was an abortion pill.
Critics argued that the bill would confer “personhood” on all unborn babies, from the moment of conception, perhaps leading to a ban on abortions and many forms of birth control.
More controversial was the passage of HB 1047
, which requires a physician to determine the viability of a fetus to live outside the womb with standard medical care before performing an abortion. Supporters say the law could prevent abortions around the 20th week of pregnancy. Current law prohibits most abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy, or around 26 weeks. Advocates say the bill implements viability as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling. It was sponsored in the House by Republican Janet Adkins from Fernandina Beach and Miami Senator Anitere Flores.
"The bottom line is that Governor Scott and the Republican leadership of Florida are wasting time on unnecessary extremist legislation, rather than working with Democrats on issues like raising the minimum wage ... or extending long-term unemployment insurance benefits for the more than 100,000 jobless Floridians who are actively looking for work," Wasserman Schultz said, also mentioning the GOP's refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Representative Lori Berman from Boynton Beach said women make decisions about terminating pregnancies for a "variety of reasons," and none of those choices are taken lightly. She also said that making such a choice is an extremely personal decision, and believes that 40 years after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court, no state legislature should debate such issues.
"We know that the majority of terminations in Florida happen during the first trimester," Berman continued. "So why Republicans would think this law is necessary is beyond me. Nevertheless people should know if HB 1047 becomes law, Florida would reduce the time frame and add a layer of difficulty for women who have sometimes been the victim of serious crimes or are dealing with health complications."
Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings expressed displeasure that with so many problems with the economy in her area, Florida Republicans' emphasis on at least some social issues was a misdirection of policies. "We have one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. yet so many jobs pay low wages," she said. "There is poverty, hunger and homelessness in the area. Why didn't the Legislature do anything this session to relieve some of that burden and stress?" She said Metro Orlando was ranked dead last
as of last fall last on median pay among the 50 largest metropolitan areas across the U.S.
But while the Democrats were bashing the GOP, the Republican Party of Florida was enjoying the chance to expose previous flip-flops on the issue regarding the man who appears to becoming their standard bearer later this year, Charlie Crist. RPOF Communications Director Susan Hepworth sent out a press release with links to previous comments and declarations by Crist regarding his championing of some pro-life legislation, such as this 2006 Associated Press story
when he served as Attorney General.
When asked by a Roman Catholic Priest whether he would sign a bill like South Dakota's abortion ban, which only allows the procedure to save a woman's life, Crist quickly answered "Yes I would."
He later clarified that the South Dakota law, set to go into effect July 1, is too restrictive, and he would only sign a ban if it also allowed abortions for victims of rape and incest. Crist added, "Promoting a culture of life is preferable to me than passing laws."