Women seeking abortions in Florida will face additional hurdles if, as expected, Gov. Rick Scott signs a pair of bills passed and sent out of the Legislature on Thursday.
The final vote in the state Senate came Thursday after opponents of abortion restrictions from both parties ripped their colleagues for being hypocritical on government intrusion and unresponsive to the real problems facing Florida.
One of the bills would make it more difficult for minors to receive judicial waivers of parental notification requirements when they have abortions.
The second requires those seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound, and requires that the procedure be reviewed with the patient unless she declines in writing.
Even if the patient opts out of seeing the image and hearing a description, she would be responsible for paying for the procedure.
On Thursday, the ultrasound bill ramped up an already terse atmosphere in the upper chamber on the abortion issue.
Fort Lauderdale Democrat Chris Smith argued on the floor that the Republican majority would have to engage in "intellectual gymnastics" on the ultrasound issue after passing high-profile legislation demanding that government get out of personal health care decisions, including a resolution opposing the federal health care program's insurance mandate.
"Intellectually, you don't believe people should be forced to purchase medical services," said Smith, who was designated as his party's next Senate boss this week.
"You said people should have the freedom not to be forced by the federal government to buy medical insurance. If you believe in that intellectually, if that's where your heart is, I applaud you for it.
"You said government should not come between a patient and their doctor. Now you have a bill in which government is getting in between a patient and the doctor. You will have to vote in a minute to compel a patient to buy a medically unnecessary procedure."
Both chambers have already passed measures that would place on the 2012 statewide ballot a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of public funding for any abortion or for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion; and prohibit the sale in Florida of insurance policies covering abortions through an exchange created by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Evelyn Lynn, a Republican from Ormond Beach, scolded her GOP colleagues over their priorities.
"I came up here (to Tallahassee) not to tell you what to do with your bodies, not to tell you what your religious beliefs should be, or to tell you what your sense of values should be. I came up here to help people put food on their table. I came up here to get people jobs. I came up here to protect people from the kinds of safety issues that the fire and police take care of. I came up here to protect education."
Lynn, one of the state's longest-serving legislators, continued, "I can't abide with this on this floor. I will vote no on every abortion bill. If you can find a bill that is going to help my people find a good job, and get them to stay in their houses, and you can help my people get food on their table and the homeless places to live, I will vote for every one of those bills."
Sen. Ronda Storms, the Republican sponsor of the ultrasound bill, dismissed the notion that legislators must be laser-focused on issues such as the economy.
"The great questions of life are why you're here," she said.
The parental notification bill, meanwhile, narrows the options for where a minor – defined by the state as someone under 18 -- may file for a court waiver, requiring that she petition in the judicial circuit in which she resides instead of the potentially larger appellate court district.
Democrats argued that the bill would create privacy problems for women from small towns or rural areas who under current law have access to a wider variety of courts. Exemptions are typically sought in cases of rape, incest, or family issues that would preclude open discussion of the situation.
But bill sponsor Alan Hays, the bill's Republican sponsor from Umatilla, said under the status quo, a woman seeking a judicial override could travel hundreds of miles across the state in the sweeping Panhandle appellate court district.
"I find it totally and completely repulsive that we would allow an adult to take one of these 13- or 14-year-old young ladies and drive her form Crestview to Fernandina Beach to get a judge to OK an abortion," Hays said.
Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, argued parental notification is essential and obvious.
"You can't give a child an aspirin in school without permission. You can't do any kind of medication, but we can secretly take the child off and have an abortion We should support it with all our hearts and souls if parental responsibility means anything to us."
The parental notification bill passed 26-12. The ultrasound bill passed 24-15. Both now go to Gov. Rick Scott.
Material from the Associated Press was used for this story.