by: Christine Sexton
Florida Intelligence Service
Doctors who terminate pregnancies simply because women do not want children with disabilities could bring criminal charges under a bill that goes through Florida House.
Members of the House Health & Human Services Committee voted on April 6, April 12-8, to propose the controversial law (HB 1221) intended to apply to doctors who know or should know that abortions they are performing Requested solely on the basis of prenatal diagnosis, testing, or screening that indicated fetuses would have disabilities.
The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill in an almost partisan vote, with Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, the only GOP member to vote against.
Bill sponsor Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, argued the bill was necessary to prevent eugenics, which uses reproduction to try to reach people with certain traits.
She said legislation has a duty to “have difficult conversations” and she believes the proposal would help prevent “abortion from becoming a tool of modern eugenics”.
The committee members spent more than an hour asking questions and debating the bill. The debate was passionate and at times personal.
Committee member Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee, discussed her experience of raising a child with an intellectual disability. Tant said that she was first told something was wrong after a sonogram when she was 11 weeks pregnant.
“My doctor threw up his hands and said, ‘I don’t know what to do. There is something wrong. I do not know what it is. Go to a specialist and you may need to consider resigning, “Tant recalled.” The resignation I was considering was my doctor’s resignation. I couldn’t take this step. I worked too hard to get there. “
But her decision not to have an abortion – made in consultation with her husband and doctors and, she said, prayer – comes with an emotional and financial cost, she said.
Tant told committee members that she would have to fight to give early support to her son when he was only three years old and fight for him throughout his education. Although it was tough, it’s not a decision she regrets, Tant said.
“Every single family must have the right to determine their own family problems,” she said. “They have to make their own decision without the mandate of people like us who are not directly involved in their lives.”
The bill includes, for example, physical disabilities, mental or intellectual disabilities and Down’s syndrome in the list of disabilities. The bill contains an exception that would allow abortions “necessary to save the life of a mother whose ife is at risk from a physical disorder, illness or injury, provided that no other medical procedure is adequate for the purpose.
Doctors who knew or should have known that abortions were performed based on prenatal diagnosis of disability would face third-degree criminal offenses and regulatory ramifications.
If lawmakers finally pass the law, Florida would be the 10th state to pass a law banning so-called disability abortions. Such restrictions have been imposed in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee, according to an employee analysis.
Indiana’s law has become permanent as lawsuits continue over Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. Bans remain in Mississippi and North Dakota.
Committee member Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, said the bill would once again shame women who choose to have abortions and force women to possibly lie to their doctors or look for doctors who will perform abortions.
Tant also said the bill moves forward while the House is considering reducing a Medicaid program to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live in their homes and communities by $ 40 million.
“So the message is clear, we really don’t value people with disabilities,” she said, adding that more than 23,000 people are on a waiting list for what is known as the iBudget program.
Following approval by the Health & Human Services Committee on Tuesday, the bill is positioned to go to the entire House.
However, the Senate version (SB 1664) submitted by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, remains blocked in the Senate’s Committee on Child Families and Elderly Affairs. This committee is chaired by Senator Lauren Book, a plantation democrat who supports abortion rights.