Wasserman Schultz sees danger in new Florida abortion waiting period

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Washington, DC, April 27, 2015 | comments

Sun Sentinel

By Anthony Man

April 27, 2015, 2:54 PM

The newest Florida state government move to restrict abortion, a 24-hour waiting period, is an unneeded government intrusion into women's lives and, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston warned Monday, will increase suffering for women and their children.

"This measure is medically unnecessary and morally reprehensible," she said. "It is just another strike in the constant attack on women's reproductive health, not just in Florida, but all across this country."

Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, called it a dangerous first step toward the ultimate goal sought by some Republicans: banning all abortions.

Wasserman Schultz led a dozen people from a range of liberal and women's organization to sound the alarm about the state plan to require an extra physician visit and impose a 24-hour waiting period.

The measure won final legislative approval on Friday. Wasserman Schultz said she'd like to see a veto, but Gov. Rick Scott — who was honored in 2013 as a "champion" by Florida Right to Life — is expected to sign the measure into law.

It would require women to visit an abortion provider in person to receive an ultrasound and information about abortions. Then, women would have to wait at least 24 hours before returning to undergo the procedure. Exceptions would be granted for people who can prove they are victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

The sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, said last week that most women "do not understand the medical complications" that arise from abortion, and that 24 hours would give them time to reflect. Some supporters said it was aimed at protecting the unborn; others said it was about ensuring medical safety.

Former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, who joined Wasserman Schultz at a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, said the suggestion by Sullivan that the law was aimed at "empowering women to make this decision" was insulting, dishonest and absurd.

"We don't need Tallahassee or Washington politicians to remind us about the seriousness of our decisions," Rich said. "Placing restrictions on women's abilities to make their own decisions doesn't empower women. It actually takes our power away."

Rich and Omilani Alarcon of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health said the waiting period would make an abortion more expensive, difficult — and, for some — impossible to obtain, they said.

Rich said the waiting period would impose an especially difficult burden on working women who already have children. They'll have to take an extra day off work for the extra doctor visit, arrange transportation, and find child care for their kids so they can make the extra trip. She said that would be particularly hard for women in rural areas who live far from abortion providers.

Wasserman Schultz and Dr. Karla Maguire of Miami said a 24-hour waiting period suggests that women who have abortions do so on a whim, which they said isn't the case. A woman doesn't "somehow, cavalierly decide suddenly" to have an abortion, a decision that she'll rethink if only she has another 24 hours," Wasserman Schultz said.

A year ago, Democrats including Wasserman Schultz attempted to stoke turnout among their party's base by warning that the results of the 2014 election could make a difference between passing and blocking anti-abortion legislation. That effort failed and Scott won re-election.

In addition, Rich said, conservative Republicans have replaced moderates in the Florida Senate. In 2012, when she was the Senate Democratic leader, Rich said she was able to assemble a coalition with moderate Republicans — who no longer serve — to block legislation similar to the measure that's now on the verge of becoming law.

Rand Paul debate continues

Also on Monday, the war of words continued between Wasserman Schultz and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

During the initial days of his presidential candidacy early this month, Paul wouldn't discuss whether he thought there should be exceptions for rape, incest or to save the pregnant woman's life if abortion ultimately is banned. Growing increasingly irritated, he told questioners to ask Wasserman Schultz "if she's OK with killing a 7-pound baby that's just not born yet."

On Saturday, at the Iowa Faith in Freedom summit, CNN reported Paul highlighted the disagreement with Wasserman Schultz. "I'm tired of us retreating on this issue, and I'm going to push back," he said.

On Monday, Wasserman Schultz said Paul is preening to the Republican Party base. "The Republican primary voter is extremely anti-choice, and so that's why he keeps fanning these flames. But you know what? The overwhelming majority of women in this country are pro-choice," she said. "Rand Paul will be made to pay at the polls one way or another. And so we're happy to continue to debate him and shine a spotlight on his really extreme views on this issue."

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