Amid contentious debate on a few abortion-related bills, a divided House gave rare, unanimous, bipartisan support to a measure that would require medical practitioners to provide emergency care in the event an infant is “born alive” after an abortion attempt or face criminal penalties.
HB 1129, sponsored by Avon Park Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, which passed 119-0, was the only abortion-related bill that legislators agreed to vote on today, bypassing another day of debate.
The measure passed as a gruesome criminal case in Pennsylvania draws heightened national attention. Dr. Kermit Gosnell is charged with causing the deaths of a patient and seven babies who prosecutors say were born alive. Gosnell is also accused of performing illegal late-term abortions.
Pigman said he wanted to guarantee “respect and humanity to infants born alive, regardless of how they entered the world.”
A state law helps ensure an infant “who breathes or has heartbeats or muscle movements,” must be taken to a hospital for treatment appropriate for gestation age, supporters said.
A failed abortion could result in a live birth in a late-term abortion, which can only be performed if two physicians agree the mother's life is at risk, or if the mother was further into her pregnancy than thought.
After the vote, Gov. Rick Scott released a press release (as he has after committee votes on the bill) applauding legislators and said “I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”
The Senate version, SB1636, passed the Committee on Judiciary on Monday and now goes to the Senate Budget Committee on Appropriations.
Two other bills drew lots of debate Wednesday. One would require doctors sign an affidavit stating an abortion is motivated by sex or race selection (HB 845). The other would make the death of an “unborn child” a separate crime from any offense committed against the mother (SB 876). The bills are expected to come up for a vote in the House Friday.
These bills have been slower to move in the Senate, where leadership has said that economic issues were top priorities this session.
That thinking is backed up by Florida voters. In November, lawmakers' proposed constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions was rejected 55-45 percent.