The Florida House passed a bill requiring that all women seeking an abortion must show proof of rape or pay for an ultrasound before the procedure, despite the efforts of Democrats to block the bill from reaching the floor.
The bill, which many characterized as a “sneak attack” at the tail end of the legislative session, caused a great deal of division and vitriol in the House.
The abortion restriction, unveiled in the closing days of the 2010 legislative session, opened raw and emotional divisions among legislators as they prepared to leave Tallahassee for the summer. The debate was so heated and, at times, graphic, House Republican leaders ordered teenage pages off the House floor and cleared the public galleries of children. Two Democrats wept as they spoke against the ultrasound mandate.
Largely along party lines, the Republican-controlled House approved the abortion bill 76-44 Friday. The Senate had voted for the measure a day earlier, 23-16.
Opponents called the ultrasound mandate a government intrusion on a decision that should be left to women. “Stand down if you don’t have ovaries,” said Rep. Janet Long, D-Tampa.
The bill requires ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in their first trimester, when more than 90 percent of the procedures occur. Doctors or nurses also are ordered to describe the images on the sonogram and the stage of fetal develoment. Women must sign a form if they refuse to view the images.
Unlike the recently passed Oklahoma law, women who have been raped can opt out of the ultrasound if they can prove their attack, causing some to refer to it as the “proof of rape” bill.
It is now up to Governor Charlie Crist to decide to sign or veto the legislation. Crist is currently running for the Republican nomination for the open Florida senate seat.