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Pre-abortion ultrasound bill moves ahead (again) in House

A measure that would require all women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound exam and have the option to view the scan was revived Wednesday, after the state Senate killed a similar proposal last year in a dramatic 20-20 tie vote.

Following more than an hour of debate, the House Health Care Regulation Committee cast a party-line 5-2 in favor of the bill, with supporters saying the ultrasound provision helps women make informed medical decisions and helps doctors prevent complications.

"Let a woman choose, but let her have all the information possible that we have to give to her," said Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Brandon, who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

But opponents argue the ultrasound provision is a veiled effort to create an added hurdle for women already facing a tough choice, and they say the Legislature should leave the decision to perform an ultrasound to doctors.

"I think that this is a very difficult decision that women make and we should not continue to put hurdles up and chip away at current law," said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, who voted against the bill along with Rep. Ari Porth, a Coral Springs Democrat.

Florida law already requires ultrasound scans – also referred to sonograms – for any abortion more than three months into the pregnancy. But the proposed bill would extend that provision to the first trimester, when most abortions take place.

Under the proposed law, doctors must allow the woman a chance to see the scan, unless she signs a waiver declining that option.

Doctors also would be required to provide information on fetal development.

The bill provides exceptions to the ultrasound requirement for medical emergencies and cases where the woman can provide documentation that she is a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

In party-line committee votes, the committee defeated Democratic attempts to weaken the bill by providing money for facilities to purchase ultrasound equipment and by allowing doctors to make the final decision on performing pre-abortion ultrasounds.

This is the third year in a row that the Legislature has debated the ultrasound bill. The proposal cleared the GOP-dominated House both years, but last year seven Republican senators joined 13 Democrats to defeat the bill.

The previous year, the full Senate would not discuss the ultrasound provision at all out of concern that it would harm the historic unity of that chamber.

This year, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is sponsoring the Senate version of the proposal.