TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – A controversial anti-abortion bill is rapidly making its way through the Florida Legislature. The measure would require a woman getting an abortion to have an ultrasound done before the procedure. Women could opt-out of seeing the ultrasound image.
Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a similar bill last year.
Currently, women seeking an abortion in Florida are mandated to have an ultrasound in the second or third trimester.
The GOP’s eventual goal of ending abortion will have to wait, but several bills have been chipping away at abortion. There are currently 18 different bills in the Florida legislature that would impact women and abortion.
But, the legislature may not be in step with the majority of Floridians.
While voters are evenly split on the ultrasound bill, an overwhelming majority of voters (65 percent) support the Row v. Wade decision; and 58 percent said it should be legal in most or all cases, according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll.
At a protest against the anti-abortion measures in Tallahassee women sarcastically donned “chastity belts” fashioned of aluminum foil, and a woman in a Statue of Liberty costume was chained to an Uncle Sam character. The demonstrators call the challenges to abortion access a throw-back to an era of oppression against women.
“When we start getting government involved in women’s rights, it becomes problematic because, where do you stop?” said Rep. Dwight Bullard, a Democrat from Miami.
“We believe, as we always have, that this (abortion) is a personal, very intensely personal issue,” said Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat.
On a visit to South Florida Tuesday, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz derided efforts among conservatives in Congress to cut off funding to facilities that provide abortions.
“The fact that we went to the brink – literally within hours – of shutting the government down over women’s health care last Friday was outrageous and unacceptable,” said Wasserman Schultz.
In South Miami, Dr. Luis Roca, who practices obstetrics and gynecology, called efforts to mandate ultrasounds an unwarranted intrusion.
“It’s just putting more limitations on patients and doctors,” Roca said.
Dr. Edward Phillips, also an obstetrician and gynecologist, said the host of regulations being proposed in Tallahassee are “attempts to legislatively make the process that more difficult.”
“I don’t believe that they’re helping a woman get better health care,” Phillips said.
Supporters say the ultrasound proposal is intended to give women information.
“I never think of it as limiting women’s rights, when it comes to making an informed decision about her health,” said Sen. Ronda Storms, a Republican from Hillsborough County.
The fight over abortion has even spawned a brouhaha over the use of the word uterus on the floor of the Florida House.
Last month, Florida Rep. Scott Randolph joking said his wife would have to incorporate her uterus in order for Republicans to drop the bills in the House that seek to restrict abortion rights.
Randolph said he was articulating the hypocrisy of advocating laws that tell women what to do with their bodies, while imposing few, if any, restrictions on big business.
“It’s easy to practice an ideology of convenience,” he said March 25, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “If my wife incorporated her uterus, you all would say hands off. If my friends incorporated their bedroom, you’d say hands off.”
There’s also a question of hypocrisy for many of the same Republicans because they vow to fight health care reform because it makes government involved in health decisions, while at the same time forcing government to get involved in health decisions made by women.
Randolph was told to not use the word uterus by House Speaker Dean Cannon. A spokeswoman for Cannon said it was important to remember the visitors and guests, including pages and messengers.
Earlier in the legislative session, Randolph shared a personal story after seeing an ultrasound that confirmed his wife’s pregnancy wouldn’t be viable, according to the News Service of Florida.
Randolph said under the House bill, his wife would have been forced to have another ultrasound before terminating the pregnancy, which would have inflicted unnecessary psychological trauma.
“In an ideology of convenience it is overlooked that this occurs every day in this state,” Rep. Randolph said, according to the NSF.
But Florida’s measure is one of many moving through legislatures across the country.
In South Dakota, a law was enacted to make women wait three days before an abortion could be performed. In Ohio, a bill would outlaw abortions after the first medically detectable heartbeat, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
More than 20 states have bills pending that would restrict insurance coverage of abortion, according to Businessweek.com. Florida has a similar bill that would ban most insurance coverage of abortion in the sunshine state.
Any bill that restricts abortion will likely be signed by Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, who highlighted his opposition to abortion during his campaign in 2010.