Human Rights

Florida governor signs law banning post-viability abortion

Ultrasound at 22 weeks

Florida governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law this morning which bans aborting pre-born children who have reached the age of viability outside the womb. Prior to this legislation, Florida enforced a 24-week cap on late-term abortions. The new legislation no longer pinpoints a precise week after which abortion is illegal, but rather leaves the decision up to the doctor based on his judgement of whether an individual pre-born child is viable.

Because 24 weeks can no longer be accepted as “the” age of viability — in the face of children who have defied that number — the legislation will protect children whose mothers seek an abortion at any point in pregnancy. A physician will be required to perform an ultrasound on every woman seeking an abortion in Florida to determine the possibility of viability outside the womb. According to the bill’s summary:

Before performing any termination of pregnancy, a physician must determine if the fetus is viable by, at a minimum, performing a medical examination of the woman and the fetus to the maximum extent possible through reasonably available tests and the required ultrasound. The physician must also document his or her determination on viability as well as the method, fetal measurements, and other information used to determine viability.

An upturn in life-sustaining technologies has contributed to lower ages of viability  over the years.  In 2006, for example, a baby survived birth at just 21 weeks — barely halfway into her mother’s pregnancy. Although the chances of survival in the second trimester are somewhat slim, they do exist and are growing.

“This good legislation protects our society’s most vulnerable, the unborn,” said Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops spokeswoman Ingrid Delgado. She said that the law “recognizes that an unborn child who is viable and can sustain life outside of the womb has a right to life.”

Florida’s new law will take effect on July 1.

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