The Abortion Debate Comes Home

Article first published as Abortion Debate Devolves to the States on Technorati.

The abortion issue is no longer a national debate. This is not to say that legalized abortion, pro or con, is not on the conscience of every thinking American. But, of late, abortion has become much more of a state-to-state issue, with significant battles being fought and won by both sides at the state level.

On May 5th Governor Rick Scott(R) of Florida received on his desk a stack of bills which would regulate or limit legal abortions to one degree or another. And it looks as though he is ready to sign them into law.

The first is a bill
, sponsored by State Sen. Alan Hays, requiring parental notification for any minor girl seeking an abortion. Though similar “parental notification” laws have been passed in other states, they often allow for the minor to obtain a waiver for parental notification from an appeals court judge. The Florida bill creates an addition hurdle, and likely deterrent, in the process by allowing waivers only from circuit court judges, who ordinarily hear cases which are more local. This impedes the ability of a young woman to “shop” for a sympathetic judge outside of her jurisdiction.

The next bill passed, which was sponsored by Florida State Sen. Rhonda Storms, requires that women seeking an abortion are offered ultrasound pictures of their unborn baby so they may have a clear description of the size and characteristics of that child. It does not force the woman to submit to an pre-abortion ultrasound, but it must offered as a legally mandated protocol.

The third bill, which received final approval from the Florida House of Representatives, prohibits medical insurance plans within the state from offering coverage for abortions. This law would nullify the portion of the new federal health care law which offers tax-payer funded abortion coverage.

Although Governor Rick Scott has helped to speed the signing and implementation of abortion laws in Florida, he is not exactly a maverick of abortion regulation.  As many as 46 states have statutes which allow medical institutions, as well as individuals, to refuse to provide or participate in an abortion if they so choose.   Parental notification laws for minors exist in 36 states.  Regulations for abortion providers and hospitals exist in 39 states. Gestational limits, which prohibit abortions past a certain stage of pregnancy, have passed  in 39 states.  Waiting periods, mandated pre-abortion counseling, and bans on partial-birth abortion exist in up to 18 states.

The speed with which the Florida bills have passed through the legislature is impressive.  And it is more evidence that the cumbersome and contentious federal courts and legislative bodies are not where the abortion controversy will be settled.  States and local jurisdictions have ended abortion as a national question.  Whether by design or accident, it will be dealt with as a matter much closer to home.

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