Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Florida moving closer to passing fetal personhood law?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 6:08 PM

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On Wednesday, the Senate Health Policy Committee in Tallahassee discussed the Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, which would punish anyone who commits a crime that harms a fetus.

Critics call it something else: fetal personhood, to be exact.

Today, Democrats on the committee, as well as some members of the public, blasted the proposed legislation as an attempt to erode the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing women to having an abortion in this country.

Tampa state Sen. Arthenia Joyner was particularly intense questioning Stargel about the intent of the legislation, asking questions like: What if violence is committed on a pregnant woman who's not even aware that she's pregnant?

Stargel succinctly responded, saying the penalty would be the same for the assailant.

"It would have the same affect. She's still lost her baby," Stargel said.

The Lakeland Republican defended herself, saying she's received messages on Facebook that claim she's against women.

"All this is saying is a baby within that womb, that baby is a person," adding that her intent is not to affect a woman's right to choose.

But her critics were formidable. Joan Hendricks from Crawfordville asked if pregnancy tests would be required in all instances of domestic violence. She also lamented the fact that there would be no time limits for prosecution.

Another opponent, Diane Wilson, said the law does nothing for violence against women. She said funding for more shelters, providing rehabilitation for domestic violence abusers, and providing more information to police about how to react to such crimes would be much more productive.

"What is the real aim of this bill?" she asked, answering her own question by saying that it would establish fetal personhood, and gain political points at the expense of women and victims of domestic violence.

Barbara Zdravecky from Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida referred to previous failed attempts at such legislation in Mississippi and Colorado.

South Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel said she's "really tired" of anti-abortion bills being introduced each year in the Legislature, and Stargel's bill sounds like a violation of due process.

In both 2010 and 2012, attempts to put similar measures on the Florida ballot as a constitutional amendment failed for lack of sufficient signatures.

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