CANTONMENT — Just six months after Florida voters solidly rejected a ballot referendum to impose new restrictions on abortions, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill to create new protections for infants who survive abortion procedures.
Under the new law, signed by the governor at Florida Baptist Children’s Home in Cantonment, those infants would have the same rights as infants born naturally.
Scott said he signed the bill to extend protections to society’s most vulnerable.
“There is nothing more precious or special than welcoming a new child into this world and by signing this bill, we are protecting the most vulnerable among us and affirming their rights as individuals,” the governor said.
He added, “This legislation ensures common-sense measures are taken to help care for the babies who survive abortion procedures and grants those infants the same rights as infants who are born naturally.”
During the bill signing ceremony, Sheila Hopkins, director for social concerns/Respect Life of the Florida Catholic Conference, praised the governor for “protecting the life and human dignity of children born alive during or after an abortion. It is our duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in society and this legislation does exactly that.”
The bill was cosponsored by state Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, who is a U.S. Army reserve lieutenant colonel currently deployed in Kuwait. He attended the ceremony vis Skype, saying “I was pleased to sponsor this important legislation this year and proud that Governor Scott is protecting the lives of those most vulnerable.”
The governor signed the bill despite the loss of an abortion-related ballot measure last November. Amendment 6 would have amended the Florida constitution to ban public funds from being used to support abortions. State employees would have been prevented from using their healthcare coverage for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is threatened.
If passed, the amendment would also have stated that in Florida, privacy rights are no more expansive than at the federal level.
But the measure lost, with 56 percent of Floridians voting against it and only 44 percent supporting it.
Gov. Scott comes up for re-election in 2014, and polls show him trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican who has switched parties and is now expected to seek the Democratic Party nomination for governor.
Although he called himself Pro-Life when he served as governor, Crist announced that he was now supporting abortion rights when he ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010. Crist lost that race to Republican Marco Rubio.
In June 2010, Gov. Crist vetoed a bill that would have required women seeking an abortion during the first trimester to undergo an ultrasound exam and pay for it. Crist said it was an unfair burden to place on women.
A May 23-25 statewide poll of registered voters by Florida Opinion Research showed Crist, running as a Democrat, would get 48.1 percent of the vote, while Scott gets just 34.1 percent.
The poll indicated that Scott would enjoy the support of 60.3 percent of Republicans, but just 21.6 percent of independent voters. Despite his term as governor as a Republican, Crist would get 74.2 percent of the vote from Florida Democrats and 52.2 percent of independents.
Political analysts have speculated that Scott will need the firm support of his conservative base if he is to have a chance to win, and will need them to turn out heavily at the polls.
As a result, supporting Pro-Life legislation is considered a key to that.
Dr. Jerry Haag, president of Florida Baptist Children’s Home, said the measure signed there was a major step forward in protecting the life of children.
“Our children are our most sacred treasures and it is imperative that all children- those born and unborn – are valued and treated fairly,” Haag said.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, added, “We affirm with Governor the first principle that all life, born and unborn, has intrinsic worth and value and deserves to be protected. This is a great human rights victory for the Sunshine State.”
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