Florida Republicans Pass Forced Waiting Period Bill in Party-Line Vote

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Florida Republicans Pass Forced Waiting Period Bill in Party-Line Vote

Nina Liss-Schultz

The Florida legislature's Republican majority on Friday passed a measure mandating a 24-hour waiting period for people seeking abortions, sending it to Republican Gov. Rick Scott for approval.

The Florida legislature’s Republican majority on Friday passed a measure mandating a 24-hour waiting period for people seeking abortions, sending it to Republican Gov. Rick Scott for approval.

HB 633, passed this month by the state GOP-dominated house, was approved last week by the state senate.

Passed along party lines in both legislative chamber, HB 633 will revise the state’s “informed consent” law by requiring a person seeking an abortion to meet with a physician at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure.

Florida physicians must currently get the written consent of patients seeking abortions, after giving those patients specific, state-mandated information about their pregnancy. That information includes printed material prepared by the state government describing the stages of fetal development, as well as a list of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in the area, and information on prenatal and childbirth care.

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CPCs are run by anti-choice organizations and use misinformation and faulty science to dissuade people from pursuing legal abortion.

Physicians in Florida must also inform patients of the risks of abortion, and give them an estimated gestational age of the fetus based on an ultrasound, the images of which must be offered for viewing. Currently, consent can be given for an abortion on the day of the procedure.

HB 633 would change that by requiring physicians meet with patients 24 hours before performing an abortion. The bill explicitly requires that the physician present the information while in the physical presence of the patient, prohibiting a conversation over the phone or otherwise.

The bill was passed by the senate after a long debate, in which proponents framed the issue as one of empowering women to make the best decisions for their lives.

“If all this bill does is have one woman—just one—after some time of reflection, after some time of thought say, ‘I’m going to make the decision to have this baby’… I will consider that be a huge success,” said Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Opponents charged that the bill creates an unnecessary double standard and is in fact demeaning to pregnant people.

“No woman wakes up and says, ‘Hey, I’ll have an abortion tomorrow.’ They’ve thought about it,” state Sen. Arthenia Joyner said before the vote. “Stop chipping away at our right and throwing these stumbling blocks in front of these women who have decided to do what they want to do.”

“A mandatory delay is not something that should be imposed on a woman, because there are lots and lots of procedures, as we know, that happen every day with doctors and there is not a single instance in Florida law or in this country where someone is required to wait, other than having an abortion,” Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D) said in a statement.

Twenty-six states have waiting period laws on the books. The North Carolina state house last week passed a radically anti-choice bill that would increase the state’s waiting period from 24 to 72 hours.