TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Abortion rights backers objected angrily to time limits on public comments as a bill requiring a 24 hour waiting period for an abortion got its first Senate committee approval Tuesday.
The legislation, SB 724 sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, would require that a woman wait 24 hours after a legally required counseling session with a physician before having the procedure.
Supporters say it’s intended to create a period for reflection before an important decision that a woman might come to regret. Some opponents of abortion, however, acknowledge that limiting access to abortions is part of their legislative strategy.
“This is a major medical procedure,” Flores told the committee.
Julie Costas of Tallahassee told the committee that she has long regretted her decision to have an abortion as a young woman.
If the law had been in effect then, “who knows if I would have changed my mind?” she said.
Opponents say requiring two clinic trips would be a burden on women who work, are low-income or have to travel to reach a clinic. They contend the bill isn’t intended to help women.
“This is just another impediment in a continuing effort to erode a woman’s right to choose,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.
With time running out in the committee meeting, Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, limited public comments, which angered abortion rights backers in the audience.
“I resent us not being able to have testimony on this important bill,” Barbara DeVane of the National Organization for Women said loudly from the audience as she was denied a chance to speak.
The committee approved the measure on a 5-3 party-line vote. Afterward, as legislators were leaving the room, Dean Alarcon of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health shouted at Flores, “It’s my decision; it’s my body.”
Gaby Garcia-Vera of the institute went to the microphone and briefly sought to speak to the departing crowd.