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House panel advances pair of antiabortion measures

House members continued their push to further regulate abortion procedures with party-line approval of two bills Tuesday.

One proposal, HB 839, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks -- with exception for saving the life of the mother -- in effort to prevent fetal pain.

"It's clearly evident that these are not pieces of tissue in their momma’s belly," Davis said. "It is a baby."

The scientific community lacks consensus on when a fetus has the capacity to feel and understand pain.

Haley Gentile, a senior at Florida State, called the proposal a "poorly masked upon a woman's right to the procedure.

"I think the most appalling of all provisions is that there are no exceptions for a pregnancy that is a result of rape or incest," Gentile said. "As an advocate for victims of rape, this is completely reprehensible."

As expected, it passed 8-5.

The second abortion proposal, called the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act," would require doctors to sign an affidavit attesting the abortion is not being performed for racial or gender preferences.

The sponsor behind the idea, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said it would not require a physician to ask a woman if she is having the procedure for one of those reasons. Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, questioned how the doctor would know if a woman was seeking the procedure for one of those reasons, which, he said, defeats the intention of the bill: reducing sex- or race-selective abortions.

"I will agree that this will not end gender- and race-based abortions," Plakon said. "Even if it helps filter out some I consider it very worthwhile for the bill to pass."

It also passed 8-5.

Both bills have a stop pending in the Health and Human Services Committee. The Senate has not heard the companion to Plakon's measure, SB 1702, and HB 839 has no Senate companion.