tampabay.com

Storms' bill flops; she's undaunted

It would require police be notified of youthful pregnancies.

By REBECCA CATALANELLO and ALEX LEARY
Published April 20, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Sen. Ronda Storms took the bill's sudden death in stride.

Her controversial proposal to require that health care professionals call police if they encounter pregnant patients 14 or younger died Thursday in a committee she chairs.

But Storms, who argued the measure would curb the sexual exploitation of underage women, said following the hasty vote that she'll continue to look for ways to change the law.

"We're not done with this by a long shot," the Brandon Republican said. "Although we may lose a battle here or a battle there, we will press on to win the war."

Without discussion, members of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs voted 4-3 to kill the bill (SB 2546). It was the first and only time any Senate committee discussed the bill. A House committee took up the companion bill (HB 1425) sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, in a workshop Thursday but took no vote.

Opponents argue the legislation would deter pregnant teens from seeking any sort of prenatal care. One of the bill's provisions required doctors who perform abortions on such girls to collect a DNA sample from the fetus and send it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami Beach, who voted against it, said the lack of discussion was expected. "It's a philosophical issue," she said. "With philosophical issues, after you're here a while, you can almost tell how the votes are going to go."

But Margolis, who took the gavel from Storms while she presented her bill, mistakenly took a vote before allowing Storms to make her closing argument. She apologized as soon as Storms asked about it.

Though the bill's original language affected teens younger than 16, Storms amended it Thursday to make it 14 in an attempt answer to concerns about consensual sex between older teens.

She said she anticipated the bill's demise because of its entanglement with the abortion debate. "I guess the message is that members are willing to overlook the crime in order to protect their pet ideology."