The state capitol has been filled with legislators over the decades who disagree with a woman's right to choose, but Orlando Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani is not one of them. She filed a bill on Tuesday that would roll back Florida's legal barriers to safe abortions.
"Instead of respecting a woman's decision, anti-abortion opponents have resorted to inflammatory, shaming rhetoric, and extreme laws that punish women and criminalize providers," said Eskamani in a release.
Eskamani's bill, HB 6047, would repeal laws currently requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between when a woman sees a doctor and when she can obtain an abortion. The bill would also strike laws that block abortion providers from accessing public funds for other health services. Additionally, the bill would end inspections of abortion providers by the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, which Eskamani calls "politically motivated" and says are breach of privacy for women trying to receive treatment.
"Florida has a long history of supporting such laws," said Eskamani. "Every pregnancy and every woman’s circumstances are different."
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 40 percent of all Florida laws restricting abortion were passed since 2011. The New York-based sexual and reproductive health organization published a list of abortion restrictions put in effect in Florida as of Sept. 1, 2019.
Among these restrictions, a woman pursuing an abortion must attend state-directed counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion. If the patient is a minor, her parents must be notified. Currently, public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Plans from the publicly funded Affordable Care Act can only cover abortions in the same extreme cases, unless a woman pays out-of-pocket for additional coverage.
If a woman's pregnancy is more than 24 weeks, it can only be terminated if it is life-threatening or causes damage to her health. Beyond that point, even pregnancies from rape and incest must to be carried to term.
The most stringent state laws require all patients seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive, medically unnecessary ultrasound beforehand, with the physician directed to offer the woman a view of the images. If a woman's pregnancy is more than 24 weeks along, it can only be terminated if it is life-threatening or causes damage to her health. Beyond that point, even pregnancies from rape and incest must to be carried to term.
It's worth noting that screening for Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and neural tube defect is done between 15 and 22 weeks, and the ultrasound exam that checks for major physical defects in the brain and spine, facial features, abdomen, heart, and limbs is done between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Before her election in 2018, Eskamani was a senior director at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, where she worked for six years. Eskamani says her bill would remove the gauntlet of superfluous and embarrassing regulatory hurdles for women facing "the deeply personal decision of whether to continue their pregnancy," she wrote in the release.
"We are proud to pull back on past unconstitutional laws, and to keep fighting for reproductive health, rights, and justice," said Eskamani.
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