TALLAHASSEE — Women seeking abortions will first be required to have a physician determine if the fetus is viable, defined by Legislation passed Friday as being able to survive with routine medical care.
The measure (HB 1047), which passed the Senate by a vote of 24 to 15, amends the current ban on most abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy. The legislation now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.
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 if viability is determined except in cases to in which the mother’s life is at risk or a procedure is necessary to prevent “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” of a pregnant woman.
It would also remove psychological troubles as an exception.
The bill and its Senate counterpart were opposed loudly by Democratic lawmakers through the committee process that began in March.
The removal of psychological well-being is “as much a part of the mother’s health as anything,” said Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood.
Another foe, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, questioned putting the onus on a doctor to determine the viability of the fetus.
“This is a moving target when you look with the standard of care and when you look at viability,” Rehwinkel Vasilinda said. “It’s difficult for a doctor to pinpoint this.”
Proponents said the measure integrates the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which found viability as a point at which the life of the fetus outweighs the rights of the woman with the exception of dire consequences to the health of the mother.
The rationale was based on medical advancements since the initial determination of viability was stated at 28 weeks by the court in 1973.
The 70-45 House floor vote earlier this month in favor of the bill included four Republicans opposing it. The legislation on the Senate side was sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who has authored several measures regarding abortion since her election to the Senate in 2010.
“This bill is not taking away a woman’s choice,” Flores said in floor debate Friday. “If a woman wants to have an abortion, she can have an abortion. What this bill is saying is that choice needs to be made before the baby is far enough to term to live outside the womb and be viable.”
Flores in 2011 and 2012 introduced measures similar to the bill passed this week. Both failed to move past committees.
Of the abortions performed in the state last year, over 90 percent were done at 12 weeks or less of pregnancy, records show.
The measure has been narrowly passed through Senate committees on party lines.
Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Scott has signed off on a number of anti-abortion measures, from directing revenue from Choose Life license plates to a nonprofit that counsels pregnant women to last year’s bill requiring that doctors performing an abortion provide emergency medical care if the baby is born alive.
He’s also signed bills tightening parental notification requirements for minors seeking abortions.