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Legislators cross party lines for votes on abortion bills

After an emotional debate, a divided House committee passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban an abortion based on the sex or race of an unborn child, one of four abortion-related bills proposed this year.

Two Republicans crossed party lines and voted against the bill, even though Judiciary Committee Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, implored members "Isn't there something we can agree is wrong?"

Republicans Ray Pilon, of Sarasota, and Heather Fitzenhagen, of Fort Myers, said they couldn't agree with House Bill 845, which requires that a physician or health care professional be required to sign an affadavit stating that the reason for the abortion isn't related to the sex or race of the child. The penalty for performing an abortion based on those reasons would carry a civil fine of  up to $10,000.

"I'm a very strong conservative Republican," Pilon said, but added he couldn't support the bill. "I believe in personal responsibility," he said, adding that the bill put the burden on the physician instead of the court system. Fitzenhagen said the bill, which passed by a vote of 10-7, gets into areas that "perhaps we shouldn't be delving in." The sole Democrat voting for the measure was Rep. Daphne Campbell of Miami.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, states one reason the bill is necessary is because the United States has become a "safe haven" for people from other countries who want to terminate pregnancies because of sex or race.

Kellie Dupree, vice president of public policy and communications, told legislators "the bill subjects women of color to a higher level of scrutiny" and "insults all women by calling into question their ability to make personal medical decisions."

Her remarks came a week after a Planned Parenthood lobbyist was lambasted on the Internet in conservative publications nationwide for her comments during a previous House discussion. In a March 27th meeting, legislators asked lobbyist Alisa LaPolt Snow hypothetical questions on House Bill 1129, which would require medical care for a baby born alive in the case of a "botched abortion." When asked about what happens in this case, she told legislators she didn't have the information, saying "I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider." 

In a prepared statement, Planned Parenthood said "a contract lobbyist did not fully communicate our position" on House Bill 845, saying that if this "unlikely" situation did occur, "any health provider is already compelled to provide emergency care to both the woman and the infant." This bill will be up for a vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee also passed a bill that would charge a defendent with two crimes when an unborn baby is injured or killed during an attack on the pregnant mother, even if the perpetrator was unaware that the woman was pregnant. "I wonder if this bill wasn't suggested by the pregnancy test industry," Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said, which drew a laugh, though Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach tweeted: "Rep Schwartz says HB 759 is supported by the pregnancy test industry. Cause if there's one unbeatable special interest, its "Big Pregnancy"

The bill would change the words “viable fetus” and “unborn quick child” in vehicular homicide law to “unborn child,” which Democrats said would be closer to “personhood” proposals that attempt to change the status of a fetus. 

While Rep. Jared Moscowitz, D-Coral Springs, said he had concerns about the personhood issue, he decided to vote for bill after hearing Baxley's passionate plea for compromise. "I unjderstand the conservative movement has issues with Roe v Wade. I had isues with Bush v Gore, but at the end of the day he was my president and that was the law of the land."