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Columns

Storms not dying down any time soon

By SUE CARLTON
Published March 16, 2007


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Was anyone under the impression that Hurricane Ronda would quietly fade off to Tallahassee?

That Ronda Storms would be watered down in the capital town?

Ha.

The freshman senator from Brandon who made a name for herself on the Hillsborough County Commission as its official right-wing moral crusader is already busy making headlines upstate.

Her latest: a bill supposedly aimed at exposing those who sexually abuse underage girls.

That sounds like a good idea. But what she's proposing could drive a wedge between teenagers in trouble and the health care workers they are supposed to trust, and keep those girls from getting help.

Storms' bill would require doctors, nurses, abortion clinic workers and counselors to report pregnant girls who are 15 or younger to police within 24 hours. Doctors also must submit a DNA sample from the fetus to law enforcement. Fail to comply and you risk your license.

In point of fact, having sex with a girl who is 15 or younger is a crime. But sex between teenagers, believe it or not, happens. And doctors are already required to report suspected abuse including incest.

A law like this destroys trust between a health care provider and a patient, says Mary Ortiz, clinician and nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

"I think that's very tragic for an adolescent to make one mistake and have it be a record, don't you?" she said.

Storms has said the bill is about protecting girls who are "being coerced or otherwise being exploited."

Could there be another motive, too?

Remember, she was the commissioner who called Planned Parenthood pro-death and led the fight to cut county funding for the organization's program on teen social issues.

Think the idea that police will get involved might scare some girls out of seeking abortions? Think this might be one big benefit to your bill if you happen to be a pro-life politician?

Storms didn't return calls for comment this week. But House sponsor Rep. Dennis K. Baxley of Ocala said while it wasn't his objective, "it doesn't make me unhappy that there might be less abortions."

Storms, by the way, also is pushing to make it harder for a minor to get an abortion without parental permission. A judge can grant this based on a girl's best interests, her maturity, or if she has been abused by a parent.

Think Storms won't get anything on her wish list? Think battles already won - like the right to choose - won't have to be fought again and again?

There's an object lesson about the power of Storms in the recently renewed push to allow gay adoption.

This would mean capable foster parents who happen to be gay could adopt children, which would be awfully good news for the nearly 4,000 foster kids currently growing up in the system.

But guess what - Storms heads the committee to which the bill has been assigned. Given the anti-gay stance that made her infamous from Tampa to Key West, expect this one to be dead in the water.

And get ready for plenty more Storms in the forecast.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 22:51:14]


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