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Florida Senate Passes First Round of Anti-Abortion Bills

The major issue of the 2010 election was the economy, and Florida voters chose to further entrench Republican power in Tallahassee. Of course, you can't put a bunch of Republicans in a legislative chamber and not expect them to pass a bunch of anti-abortion, anti-woman legislation. It's just what they do. With passage in the Senate, two controversial abortion bills are likely headed to passage after being reconciled in the House. One bill will be sent to the governor, while the other, a proposed constitutional amendment, will head to voters.

Amendment (HJR 1179) received 27 votes, the bare minimum needed to put it on the 2012 ballot. The bill would ban public funding of abortion (which is already established under state and federal laws). The amendment would also exclude abortion from the Florida Constitution's strong privacy rights. That's key, because the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in America -- Roe v. Wade -- was decided on right-to-privacy issues.

"But make no mistake, HJR 1179 is a backdoor attempt to send women back to back alleys," Rep. Scott Randall said during debate on the measure in the House. "By specifically attaching a woman's right to that of those contained in the U.S. Constitution, the majority is waiting with bated breath for the Roberts Court to return the issues of a right to privacy back to the states. When that happens, the right to choose will automatically be extinguished in the state of Florida."

The amendment will appear on the 2012 ballot (which some see as a ploy by Republicans to turn out their base in a swing state during a presidential election year) and must be passed by 60 percent of voters.

The other bill (HR 79) aims to limit abortion and limit the effectiveness of coverage of new types of insurance set up by President Obama's overhaul of health care. States must set up insurance exchanges by 2014, but the bill would make it illegal in Florida for these policies to cover abortion.

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Both bills make exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's life but, notably, not exceptions for the mother's health.

The House has already passed versions of the bills but will need to vote again after changes are made in the Senate. Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he will sign HR 79.

The Senate still has to pass other bills related to abortion already passed in the House, including a bill the requires women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds, and a bill that tightens parental consent laws.

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