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House beefs up already expansive antiabortion proposal

Brandon Rep. Rachel Burgin's wide-ranging antiabortion bill (HB 277) was already stacked with a number of new restrictions on the procedure and the clinics that provide them.

It creates a 24-hour waiting period for women who wish to get abortions; requires physicians who perform abortions to take three hours of ethics training; require new abortion clinics or locations to be wholly owned by physicians; and expand the abortion ban to when the fetus is viable, among other things.

Now her proposal would do even more.

The House Health and Human Services Committee tacked on a lengthy amendment from Burgin and Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, on Thursday that incorporates much of his own stalled antiabortion bill concerning fetal pain (HB 839).

Even though a committee analysis noted the scientific community is not united on when a fetus can feel pain, physicians would be required to inform women that the fetus feels pain after 20 weeks. They would also have to describe the steps needed to perform the abortion, and specifically list the steps that could be painful for the fetus.

The bill requires physicians to save babies who are born alive after an attempted abortion. And it also     requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to submit aggregate data reports on the procedures performed in Florida to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AHCA reported in a committee analysis this year that compliance with the reporting requirement would cost $50,000 in software upgrades. An AHCA official backtracked on that point as several Republicans suggested it was an error, saying "we feel that is something we can absorb." 

Mirroring efforts by Democratic Sen. Eleanor Sobel during discussion of the Senate's companion bill on Wednesday, Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, offered several hopeless amendments that she eventually withdrew, including one requiring men to wait 24 hours before receiving vasectomies and erectile dysfunction medication.

"This bill does more than we’ve even discussed," she said. "It is insipid and it is intrusive."

Among people speaking in favor of the bill was Maureen Ahern, wife of St. Petersburg Rep. Larry Ahern, a Republican, who said the bill did not restrict access to health care, as Planned Parenthood advocates suggested, because abortion is not health care.

Republican members were more blunt.

“I think as a man I do feel qualified to comment on this a little bit given my own personal history," said Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford. "I think when you make a choice to unilaterally end someone’s life by force we generally call that murder."

The vote was 12-6 along party lines.