Lawmakers in 2 states pass new abortion restrictions
TALLAHASSEE/INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Legislators in both Indiana and Florida passed sweeping abortion restrictions on Wednesday.
The Indiana House passed a bill, already approved by the Senate, that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and cut funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
If the bill is signed by Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana will become the fifth state to ban late-term abortions based on the contested idea that a fetus feels pain at this point.
In Florida, the state House approved a series of restrictions that include barring federal health reform funds from paying for the procedure and requiring all women to pay for ultrasounds before terminating pregnancies.
The six abortion-related measures still must go to the Republican-majority Senate for approval.
Speaking of the Indiana legislation, Representative Eric Turner, a Republican, said: "I believe that with passage of this legislation we'll become the most pro-life state in America and I'll be proud of that."
Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Governor Daniels would be breaking his promise to "declare a truce on social issues and focus on the economy" if he signed the bill.
"Governor Mitch Daniels will now be forced to decide whether to put his presidential ambitions above thousands of Hoosier women who would lose access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other basic health care," she said.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana issued a statement calling on Daniels to veto what it called "one of the worst pieces of public health legislation in Indiana's history."
The organization said that the provision could cost the state about $4 million in Medicaid federal family planning funds -- impacting other family planning providers besides Planned Parenthood.
Republican Representative Mark Messmer, who supports the bill, said he did not believe it would cause a loss of federal funding.
Daniels's spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said the Republican governor would review the bill.
Florida's Republican-majority House passed the abortion measures following two days of sometimes stormy debate.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, has said he'll deal with the measures as a "pro-life" governor.
"For many people this is a moral issue, this is a life and death issue," said Representative Dennis Baxley, a Republican and former executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition.
Comprising less than a third of the chamber, Democrats tried unsuccessfully to tack on a series of amendments to blunt their effects and provide more protections for teen mothers and low income women.
"Each of these bills chips away at women's rights in Florida," said Representative Scott Randolph, a Democrat. "Little-by-little, piece-by-piece, this legislature intends to completely outlaw abortion in this state."
Among the bills approved by the Florida House is a measure that would require ultrasounds before women can have first-trimester abortions. Women would have to sign forms stating they do not want to see the fetal images or hear descriptions but must still pay for the procedure.
Another proposal would ask voters in November 2012 to approve a constitutional amendment to specifically bar public funds from paying for abortion services and specify that Florida's constitutional right to privacy could not be used to thwart abortion restrictions.
For teens, a measure would tighten restrictions on minors who seek judicial approval to have abortions without their parents being notified by requiring minors to go before judges in the same judicial circuits where they live.
Lawmakers also approved a measure that would prevent abortions after the fetus was determined to be viable. The measure would also require that doctors or groups of doctors own and operate any new clinics opened after October 1, 2011.
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