Two bills moving through the Florida Senate and House of Representatives could require women to attend an in-person counseling session with a physician 24 hours before receiving an abortion.
Senate bill 724 was voted favorable by the Committee on Health Policy on Tuesday. House bill 633, an identical bill in the House, was voted favorable by the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.
If passed, the bills, titled Termination of Pregnancies and Informed Patient Consent respectively, would become law on July 1.
The bills would require a physician performing an abortion to meet with a patient face-to-face to perform an ultrasound and talk about the abortion procedure. The patient would have to return to the clinic at least 24 hours later to undergo the procedure.
Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, sponsored the House bill. She said the bill is meant to empower women to have time to reflect on their decision.
“I’ve had people in my own life who have been very pressured into making the decision,” Sullivan said.
Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, D-Tampa, voted no on the bill.
“I oppose any bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose,” Joyner said.
Joyner said the legislature has consistently passed legislation to obstruct a woman’s right to have an abortion over the last 15 years.
“It’s just impediment after impediment,” she said, “and it’s ridiculous.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing reproductive health, 35 states require a patient to have counseling before an abortion. Twenty-six of those states require a waiting period between counseling and the procedure, and 11 states require counseling to be done in person.
Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, also voted no on the bill.
“I think that this is an issue that’s between the woman, her God and her family, and I just do not feel that as an elected official I need to be making those kinds of decisions,” Clarke-Reed said.
She said the people who testified on behalf of the bill should go to the Department of Education and talk about the need for more sex education.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said the waiting period legislation is unnecessary.
Goodhue said mandatory waiting periods do not offer any health benefits and could become a barrier for women receiving an abortion.
“They only result in increased expenses, travel difficulties and medical risks,” she said.
Sherri Daume of Tallahassee, however, testified in favor of the House bill on Wednesday. She said she received an abortion and could have benefited from a consultation and waiting period.
“I did see graphic pictures several years after, and I remember my first emotion was incredible anger that the abortion workers knew that that’s what I was doing to my child but I did not,” she said. “I should have been given that opportunity to understand what was going to happen to me and what was going to happen to my child.”
Gabriel Garcia-Vera, Florida Latina Advocacy Network field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, went to the Committee on Health Policy meeting to speak against the Senate bill.
He said the 24-hour waiting period creates a difficult situation for some women.
“Many women and families can’t afford to take multiple days off from work, find child care and arrange for transportation to a clinic for multiple visits,” he said.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 22 percent of Florida women lived in counties without an abortion clinic in 2011.
Rep. Walter Bryan Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, co-sponsored the House bill. In an email, he recognized the bill could affect abortion clinics.
“I suppose the change the clinics will have to make is put in place procedures to anticipate a possible second visit or no second visit,” he wrote. “If no second visit, then the clinic has lost money, and a baby will be brought into the world. What a pleasant thought.”
Twelve people were in favor of HB 633, five people were not in favor and one missed the vote. The bill will now be to a vote on the House floor.
After receiving a 5-3 vote in the Senate Committee on Health Policy, SB 724 will be voted on in the Judiciary Committee. If it is voted favorable, it will move on to the Committee on Fiscal Policy.