Florida House Adds Exceptions For Rape, Incest To Abortion Bill

Both chambers of the Florida Legislature have passed bills requiring women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion.
Credit Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

The Florida House on Tuesday joined the Senate in moving forward with a bill that would require a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

The full House is expected to vote Wednesday on the measure (HB 633), while the Senate version (SB 724) is poised to go to the Senate floor Thursday.

Like the Senate bill, which passed the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday, the House bill was amended to include exceptions for women who are victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

Those exceptions could be granted only if women have police reports, restraining orders, medical records or other documentation to show why they should not have to make two trips to have abortions.

"You can't just walk in and say you were raped," said Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican and sponsor of the House amendment. "You have to have the documentation."

House bill sponsor Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, accepted the amendment, saying that 98 percent of women seeking abortions would still have a 24-hour waiting period to ponder the decision.

"There is a lot of information to take into account, of what the outcome of that procedure will be for the rest of their life," Sullivan said. "Therefore, the reason why I proposed the bill is that they would have time to reflect on that."

House Democrats posed a long series of questions to Sullivan, suggesting that since the bill would require two trips to abortion clinics, it would work a hardship on poor women and those who live at significant distances.

But Sullivan repeated an earlier claim that "Florida is actually known as an abortion destination" because it has 65 clinics that perform the procedure.

She also said the two visits to an abortion provider "would not be an undue burden" on women seeking the procedure.

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, asked Sullivan how many Florida counties do not have abortion providers, and Sullivan promised to find out.

"Right now they are all accessible within a 100-mile radius," Sullivan said.

Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, asked Sullivan if she'd be willing to allow an online consultation to substitute for the initial meetings between physicians and women seeking abortions.

"Not at this time," Sullivan replied.

Additionally, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, contended that the overwhelming majority of women don't report sexual assaults and thus lack the paperwork necessary to waive the waiting period.

But Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, praised Sullivan for accepting a compromise on the exemptions.

“Even on the issue of abortion, we can come together and agree that maybe victims of rape, maybe victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and incest, ought to be treated differently under the law," he said.

Kerner also noted that as a former police officer, he'd dealt with a number of rape victims and understood why many choose not to report the crime, adding that he doesn't believe documentation should be required.

Photo credit: "Florida State Capitol and Florida House Office" by Michael Rivera is used under CC BY-SA 3.0.