Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] on Friday vetoed [veto letter text,PDF] a bill [HB 1143 materials] that would have required women seeking an abortion [JURIST news archive] to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. A woman would be exempt from the requirement only if she could prove she was the victim of rape, incest or domestic violence. The bill would have required women or their insurance companies to cover the cost of the ultrasound. Also included in the bill were provisions that would have prohibited private insurance companies from covering abortions if they received any government subsidies. Crist called the bill an "inappropriate burden on women" and indicated that he recognized the strong personal feelings around the issue stating:
Individuals hold strong views on the issue of life, as do I. However, personal views should not result in laws that unwisely expand the role of government and coerce people to obtain medical tests or procedures that are not medically necessary. In this case, such action would violate a woman's right to privacy.Pro-choice advocates applauded [press release] Crist's veto and described the bill as using women's reproductive rights as a "bargaining chip."
Several state legislatures have acted recently to place restrictions on women's access to abortion. Last month, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, the Oklahoma Senate voted to override a veto [JURIST report] of two anti-abortion bills, resulting in the bills immediately becoming law. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] prevents "wrongful life" lawsuits in which parents seek damages for a child born with a birth defect because the mother was unable to obtain an abortion. The second bill [HB 2780 text, RTF] requires doctors to conduct a vaginal ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion while displaying and explaining the images. Also in April, the Nebraska legislature approved a bill prohibiting abortions at or past 20 weeks [JURIST report] on the theory that a fetus can allegedly feel pain following that point. Advocacy groups have criticized the laws and indicated they will challenge them in court.