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Florida governor signs bill restricting access to abortions

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) [official website] on Friday signed into law [AP report] two bills that affect the procedures surrounding a woman's ability to receive an abortion [JURIST news archive] within the state. The first, HB 1127 [text, PDF], requires that an ultrasound be performed prior to an abortion and that the individual performing the procedure offer the woman the opportunity to view the live ultrasound images and hear an explanation of the images. The bill also provides that a woman has the right to decline to view the images but only after signing a form acknowledging that the opportunity was presented to her. Additionally, there is an exception to the requirement that a woman be informed of her right to view the images if she is seeking an abortion as a result of having been the victim of rape, incest, domestic violence, or human trafficking. The second bill signed by Scott, HB 1247 [text, PDF], relates to parental notice of abortions sought by minors. In addition to revising the definition of constructive notice required if actual notice of a parent is not possible, the bill also affects the ability of a minor to obtain a court waiver from the parental notification law. Prior to passage of the bill, a court was required to rule on the minor's petition within 48 hours. Now, however, the court has three business days after the petition is filed to hand down its ruling. If it fails to rule within the three day period, the minor can petition for a hearing, which may require another 48 hours of waiting. Just over one year ago, former Governor Charlie Crist vetoed [JURIST report] a bill with requirements similar to that of HB 1127.

Florida is not alone in its quest to restrict access to abortions. Earlier this month, the Iowa House of Representatives voted in favor [JURIST report] of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The House's bill significantly amends a bill [SF-534 text, PDF] previously introduced by the state Senate and would ban abortions after the beginning of the gestation period, which occurs at a woman's last period before her pregnancy, thus potentially banning abortions as early as 18 weeks. There is no exception in the bill for the health of the mother, although there is for her life. In May, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a South Dakota law [HB 1217 materials] requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. The law, signed [JURIST report] by Governor Dennis Daugaard [official website] in March, is set to take effect July 1 and would impose the longest waiting period in the country.

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