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    House passes tough rules for abortion clinics

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 19, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Doctors who perform abortions would have to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers under a bill approved Monday by the Florida House.

    The vote followed more than an hour of impassioned debate, with supporters saying it would protect the health of women who get abortions and opponents calling it an unconstitutional intrusion into a woman's right to privacy.

    In the end, the bill passed 71-44, holding closely to party lines.

    "This bill has nothing to do with health, safety and welfare," said Rep. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, speaking in opposition. "It has to do with lots and lots of paperwork that will hopefully discourage people from having abortion clinics."

    Her comments sparked a standing ovation by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers.

    Bill supporters, including New Port Richey Republican Mike Fasano, say the goal is to make abortion clinics as safe as outpatient surgery centers.

    Few rules govern abortion clinics. The rules for outpatient surgery centers, on the other hand, include strict requirements for surgical staff, office size, air ventilation systems and emergency equipment, among other things.

    The bill means a lot more paperwork for abortion doctors.

    Under current law, doctors have to file a monthly report on how many abortions they performed. The new law would make doctors file a report every time they perform an abortion. Violators face a $200 fine.

    The bill now heads to an uncertain fate in the Senate, where a similar measure has not made it out of committee.

    Abortion opponents have had little success in their attempts to make it harder for a woman to terminate her pregnancy. Every abortion-related law the Legislature has passed in recent years law has ended up in court, and some have been struck down.

    The Legislature tried to put more stringent regulations on abortion clinics in 1980. Two years later, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the law, saying the state couldn't single out abortion clinics from other medical facilities.

    The House bill passed Monday "may raise constitutional concerns," a staff analysis concluded.

    Fasano, however, has called the measure "a health and safety issue," and pointed out that abortion clinics have little regulatory oversight.

    Opponents say there is little evidence to show that abortion clinics are poorly operated. Fasano countered that abortion clinics don't even have to report when something goes wrong.

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    From the Times state desk