A controversial abortion bill passed by the Florida Legislature will soon be either signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist when it reaches his desk in the coming days.
If passed, the bill will require abortion recipients to view an ultrasound of the fetus – paid for out of their own pockets. Doctors are allowed to go into detail about the images, describing the heart and other physical features. One is only exempt if able to provide legal documentation proving rape, incest or other sexual transgression.
It also prohibits any federal tax credits for health insurance to employers that offer their employees policies that cover abortion.
In theory, this bill may help women better understand their decision to have an abortion.
However, it seems to be a twisted, legally sanctioned guilt-trip aimed at attacking a woman’s sometimes already battered conscience in order to coerce them into falling in line with the ideological principles of the bill’s conservative supporters.
It’s sure to affect many college-age women, as those 18 to 24 undergo 45 percent of all abortions, according to the Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health Journal.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade solidified a woman’s right to end her pregnancy until the fetus becomes viable, or able to survive, unless the woman’s health is at stake. It also prevented states from regulating abortions or creating substantial obstacles before viability.
The additional burden of having an ultrasound – perhaps now without insurance – before an abortion may significantly raise its cost, which plays an important role in influencing any decision, sometimes even serving as a substantial obstacle.
If the Florida Legislature is truly concerned with offering Florida women the opportunity to make an informed decision, the services should be optional and funded by those who share this concern.
As election season approaches and the state lacks a substantial surplus of funds amid the recent financial recession, it’s no surprise that the Republican-led Legislature has sought to mandate an ideologically self-serving bill at an advantageous time.
Just as with the recent move to ban pythons, this is an opportunity for the GOP to gain cheap political points with their constituents by taking on social issues without the unpopular choice of having to spend taxpayer money.
An Ipsos public affairs research poll, conducted for the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, found 55 percent of Florida voters think Crist should veto the controversial bill.
The same motivations that spurred this legislative action may be its undoing. Crist is running as an independent for the U.S. Senate and has already showed his willingness to turn on his former Republican colleagues who sponsored this bill.
Although many disagree on whether women should have abortions, when they should and now, how they should, focus should be on lowering the number of unwanted pregnancies – not on attacking an abortion recipient’s conscience.