Florida House Dems argue ‘fetal pain’ bill gives legal rights to rapists

Posted on: January 31st, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

One of two anti-abortion bills that passed through a justice committee in the Florida House Tuesday morning would grant “a legal right to a rapist,” Democratic members of the committee argued today.

In today’s meeting, two anti-abortion bills passed. One measure would outlaw race- and sex-based abortions and the other, a “fetal pain” bill, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. The “fetal pain” bill, Democrats on the committee argued, would grant legal rights to rapists. According to the way the bill is currently written, the biological father is given rights, with no caveats for rapists.

According to the bill, “any woman upon whom an abortion was performed in violation of this subsection or the father of the unborn child who was the subject of such an abortion may maintain an action against the person who performed the abortion in an intentional or a reckless violation of this subsection for actual damages.”

State Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, asked the sponsor of the bill if he “felt comfortable allowing a rapist to have that discretion.” The author of the measure, state Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, replied that he felt courts would be able to handle such a matter.

State Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Southwest Ranches, echoed Steinberg’s concern. He said he would not “support a bill that gives a legal right to a rapist.”

Davis said the impetus for his bill was to protect a fetus from pain, but the bill contradicts current law, which protect a woman’s right to an abortion up to 22-24 weeks. Davis’ law would make abortions illegal as early as 20 weeks.

Women’s health advocates and legal experts have taken issue with fetal pain bills because the science behind them is inconsistent. Not all scientists agree that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 weeks. The most recent study on this issue, published in Current Biologyfound that a fetus does not feel pain until 35 to 37 weeks of gestation, which is why these bills have been deemed  “neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound” by researchers in the past.

Emily Gordon of Planned Parenthood said the bill was ”too extreme for Florida” because it provided no exceptions for rape or incest.

A bill that would outlaw race and sex-based abortions also passed.

Opponents of the bill pointed out that the measure could be a burden on physicians. Steinberg noted that the law would only apply if a woman were to offer her reason for having an abortion. Planned Parenthood also spoke out against the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said that “Planned Parenthood makes hundreds of millions of dollars off abortions” and therefore has a “different view” on abortion. He said the bill would simply insure that women were not having abortions that are motivated by race or sex.

Reproductive rights advocates have denounced bills similar to Plakon’s. They argue it inflames racial tensions in order to limit a woman’s right to an abortion. There has also been a concerted effort among anti-abortion activists to link abortion to racist aims. Groups have been touting the “black genocide” conspiracy in an effort to convince African-American communities to oppose abortion in their communities.

Brian Pitts of Justice to Jesus, who supported many of the abortion bills passed last session, said the Legislature is going too far this time. He said the fetal pain bill would “micromanage and place restrictions on the practitioner” and was unnecessary. Pitts told the committee “you are going overboard” when the race- and sex-based abortion ban was up. He told the committee that they had passed many anti-abortion bills last session and that was enough.

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