Florida Bill Could Make Abortion Punishable By Life In Prison
posted by: Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux - Care2
March 4, 2010
To most people, it seems inconceivable that a woman's legal right to choose could be taken away by anything less than a Supreme Court reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (as we've seen during the health care debates, a woman's actual ability to access an abortion can be curtailed in many creative ways), but this Florida bill is frightening in how close it would come to banning nearly all forms of abortion. This month, Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Baptist minister, filed a bill that would make nearly all forms of abortion a first-degree felony for the provider, punishable by up to life in prison.
"I just felt like we're destroying a lot of Florida's children, and we need to stop," Van Zant said, "and I felt led by the Lord to do that."
Florida, as many know, is an extremely conservative state. Florida twice tried to enact legislation that banned late-term abortions, in 1998 and 2000, and both times the state lost in federal court because the laws were seen as too broad. The state's laws already restrict a young woman's right to an abortion
; a minor (or woman under the age of 18) may not obtain an abortion until at least 48 hours after parental permission is given.
This is problematic in a number of ways (young women may not be able to tell their parents about their pregnancy because of sexual assault or incest or may be afraid of the consequences if their parents discovered that they were sexually active), but Van Zant's new bill would take this a hundred steps further. He said that he hopes if the bill is passed, that its constitutionality would be challenged so that the legality of abortion could once again be considered in court. The effects of this could be potentially devastating, since the current Supreme Court could be conservative enough to reverse the Roe decision.
"We wrote it because we expect it to be challenged in court," Van Zant said of the bill. "The Roe v. Wade decision is unconstitutional -- not this bill."
The bill, interestingly, focuses on abortion providers rather than the women accessing the abortions. Doctors who perform abortions would face first degree felonies punishable by up to life in prison and civil fines. Women would also be required to receive more information on adoption. The bill criminalizes abortion even in the case of rape or incest, a dramatic move that will hopefully keep less conservative legislators from voting for it.
Ohio and Nebraska are also attempting to restrict abortion rights
. Louisiana and Utah each successfully banned abortion in 1991. Federal courts declared both those laws unconstitutional.
But let's hope that this Florida bill doesn't get far enough for a court to have to strike it down.
You can tell Rep. Van Zant what you think by emailing him here.
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