TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill that would change the exceptions to late term abortion was passed by the House Friday, opening the door to a legal framework that would take into account viability for life, rather than a designated time period, for when the procedure could be performed.
The bill (HB 1047) passed with a 70-45 vote, after a debate that touched on legal and medical issues. At issue is when viability, defined in the bill as a point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb through standard medical care, can be determined.
Current law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions including a danger to the life of the mother. The new bill would outlaw the procedure after that time unless the woman’s life is determined by two physicians to be in danger or to “avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
It would also remove the exception of psychological trouble as an exception.
In 2013, 85 abortions were performed for due to the emotional health of the mother, according to the state Department of Health.
Of the abortions performed in the state, over 90 percent were done at 12 weeks or fewer of pregnancies, a point where viability is not a question, noted Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, who added that “just on that alone, the statute we have here is doing what it is designed to do.”
Other opponents said that the bill would create scenario under which physicians could be legally culpable by mistakenly determining the viability.
But viability is a standard that should be part of the law, argued Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-The Villages.
“Certainly we believe that every viable life deserves a chance,” O’Toole said.
Many of the prepared statements from the lawmakers were met with applause from their pro and con supporters on the floor.
In her closing statement, bill author Rep. Janet Adkins, R- Fernandina Beach, explained that the measure brings Florida law into keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The ruling found that medical advancements could shift determinations of fetal viability away from the trimester framework.
“This defines what viability is,” Adkins said.