Passage of abortion bills not expected to change local procedures

— From requiring ultrasounds before any abortion to creating stricter limits on third-trimester abortions, the state’s role in regulating reproductive rights and protecting unborn life has taken center stage in the Capitol this week.

But despite all the hoopla, the abortion-related bills passed by the Florida House on Wednesday would not significantly alter womens’ access to abortion services in Collier County, nor would they immediately impact the day-to-day operations of Planned Parenthood of Collier County, the county’s only abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood already provides ultrasounds to every woman who undergoes an abortion procedure, said Char Wendel, the organization’s president and CEO. Ultrasounds, which currently aren’t required prior to first-term abortions, would be required before all abortions under House Bill 1127.

“The difference becomes when the government starts legislating particular medical procedures,” said Wendel, who opposes the House measures.

Likewise, provisions of House Bill 1397 that further limit third-term abortions, and prohibit all abortions when the fetus is deemed to have attained “viability,” also would not change abortion access in Collier. That’s because currently Planned Parenthood only offers first-trimester abortions, Wendel said.

Regardless, both sides of the debate in Collier County remain passionate about the legislation.

Wendel said she is concerned that conservative lawmakers are eroding access to abortion procedures, making it more difficult to expand operations, and threatening womens’ control of their bodies.

“I’m feeling like I’m under attack,” Wendel said. “The work we do every day is under attack.”

Planned Parenthood of Collier County performed about 400 abortions in 2010, just a fraction of the more than 11,000 medical services it offered, Wendel said. She said she believes the bills passed by the House could mislead people into believing that public funds are regularly used to pay for abortions in Florida, and that third-trimester abortions are commonplace, neither of which is true.

“A lot of untruths if not outright lies have been told about Planned Parenthood,” she said. “The resident of Florida and Collier County really need to be paying attention to what all these bills are and what they really do. I believe what they’re really trying to do is limit access to women’s health care.”

Dan Steiner, board chairman of the anti-abortion Pregnancy Resource Center of Southwest Florida supports the House bills. Abortion is a “moral crime,” he said, and requiring ultrasounds will help women make informed decisions.

“Abortion hurts women,” Steiner said. “We deal with them week in and month out, with the devastating effects emotionally, spiritually, socially and sometimes physically from abortion.”

Southwest Florida’s all-Republican delegation in the House voted almost exclusively for the six abortion-related bills, including legislation that would prohibit the use of state or federal funds to pay for health benefits that cover abortion, and add requirements to Florida’s parental notification law.

“I am staunchly pro-life, have been my entire life, and my voting record reflects that,” said Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, who voted in favor of all of the bills. “I represent probably the most conservative community in the state of Florida in Ave Maria.”

All abortion bills boil down to when life begins, said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, who also voted for all of the bills.

“Once life has begun, you’re dealing with two lives, not one, and you’ve got to balance the equal protection for both of those individuals,” he said.

Rep. Kathleen Passidomo voted for all of the abortion-related bills, except for the bill mandating ultrasounds, which she had concerns with.

“I think if we’re going to require someone to have this ultrasound, which are not cheap, and they can’t afford it, then what?” Passidomo asked. “There’s no way they can have the procedure.”

_Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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