Abortion bill stalls in Florida Senate

TALLAHASSEE, Florida Mon Mar 5, 2012 5:32pm EST

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A controversial measure requiring women to wait 24 hours before undergoing an abortion stalled on Monday in the Florida Senate, virtually ending the possibility of its passage before lawmakers adjourn later this week.

A procedural vote to bring the issue to the floor from committee failed on a 23-16 vote, less than the two-thirds needed in the 40-member chamber.

The failure makes the issue unavailable for further debate, while highlighting the divisions even among Republicans over a hot-button issue for social conservatives nationwide in this presidential election year.

Minutes after the vote, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Republican from Merritt Island, said the issue was settled and would not return.

"There are some folks who are in the pro-choice caucus within my Republican caucus who didn't want to vote for this," Haridopolos told reporters. "I think that (procedural) vote expressed where people are at."

Last week, the Florida House of Representatives passed a similar measure that would have made women wait 24 hours after seeing a physician before an abortion could be performed. Patients would have had to be told that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, an assertion that prompted spirited debate in the scientific community.

Further, the bill required doctors who perform abortions to take a yearly ethics course as part of their continuing education.

Over the past few years, Florida lawmakers have passed a series of bills aimed at restricting abortions, many of which have been challenged in court.

(Editing By David Adams and Philip Barbara)

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