Monday, June 16, 2014

Florida abortion law enters 21st century

From Reuters (a short article, so here it is in its entirety):
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday barring late-term abortions in cases where doctors determine an unborn child could survive outside the womb, in a move critics say further chips away at abortion rights. 
The measure is among new limits on abortion pushed by Republicans in several states, some of which have prompted court challenges. 
Existing Florida law forbids abortion after 24 weeks' gestation, unless a woman's life or health is jeopardized by continued pregnancy.
The new law, effective next month, sets the no-abortion point at any stage of development when a doctor determines the fetus is viable.
Once fetal viability is attained, no abortion would be allowed under the new law unless two doctors certify in writing that termination is necessary to save the patient's life or to "avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function ... other than a psychological condition."
The bill's sponsors argued modern medicine has made it possible to save infants far earlier than the third-trimester standard for pregnancy termination used by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Critics accused Scott and Republican legislative leaders of failing to respect women's rights.
"They don't think women should be able to control their own health care decisions," said Barbara DeVane, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the National Organization for Women (NOW).
DeVane said she did not know if NOW would take the issue to court in Florida, but predicted patients will challenge the law.
Let's start with what Reuters got right: the new Florida legislation does restrict abortion after viability. And the bill's sponsors do argue that advances in modern medicine created the need to update the law.

And now for what they got wrong.

First, Reuters failed to mention that the sponsors' argument is provably true. I am a Florida resident, and happened to be attending the University of Miami in 2007, when Amillia Rose Taylor was born just a short drive away from me:

She was just 21 weeks and 6 days. With proper medical care, she survived. If any state has reason to understand that viability is not a hard line set at 24 weeks, it's Florida. Frankly, I'm embarrassed that it took them this long to update the law.

Second, the trimester framework from Roe v. Wade is completely irrelevant and has been since 1992, when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, the Court got rid of arbitrary dividing lines based on trimester and replaced them with... an equally arbitrary dividing line based on viability. The Florida law is exactly what Casey explicitly permits. It's hardly the vanguard of protecting life.

So, third, it's a little misleading to lump this together with "new limits on abortion pushed by Republicans in several states, some of which have prompted court challenges." That makes it sound like this is legislation is somehow related to 20-week bans, which it isn't. 20-week bans are based on the emerging science of fetal pain, as well as the increased risks of abortion for the woman after that point; their proponents want the Supreme Court to reconsider Casey in light of these developments. But Florida is just tweaking its Casey-era law.

And fourth, this isn't exactly an error on Reuters' part, but I just want to comment on NOW's prediction that patients will challenge the law. That's hot air and DeVane knows it. Every major abortion case since Roe* has been brought, not by women, but by abortion businesses and/or their political allies (usually the Center for Reproductive Rights). That isn't going to change any time soon.

*Even Roe wasn't really brought by a patient. When pro-abortion attorney Sarah Weddington learned that Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) had become pro-life, her reaction was that she should have "picked a different plaintiff." 


argent said...

Now I feel like I want to make a graphic of whatever the quote was about "patients challenging the law" quote alongside the records of the abortion cases since Roe, to illustrate the chasm between the rhetoric (it's about women) and the reality (it's about abortion businesses). I think it could change some minds.

argent said...

Also, while obviously we're all against whatever metric is used to deny legal protection to some human beings, does anyone else get the sense that this is a step in the right direction away from arbitrary numbers, toward actually treating each person on a case-by-case basis, respecting their individual level of development?

Crystal Kupper said...

Your asterisk is my favorite point. I've always been amazed at how many people know NOTHING about Norma McCorvey, her background and how firmly pro-life she is now.

JDC said...

"Second, the trimester framework from Roe v. Wade is completely irrelevant and has been since 1994, when the Supreme Court decidedPlanned Parenthood v. Casey."

Other sources seem to say that it was decided in 1992.

Kelsey said...

Oops! Thanks for catching the typo. Will fix.