Last week Florida lawmakers passed a law banning most abortions during the third-trimester. A doctor who performs an abortion during the third trimester and anyone who assists can be charged with the third-degree felony.
However, the law makes an exception when a “physician certifies in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, there is a medical necessity for legitimate emergency medical procedures for termination of the pregnancy to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.”
Without wading into the debate over abortion, I would like to weigh in on the exception in the exception of “a psychological condition.”
Once again we have public policy reinforcing the notion that the brain is not connected to the rest of the body. Apparently, the majority of Florida lawmakers believe that “psychological conditions” cannot cause “irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” that would warrant a third trimester abortion.
The new Florida law does not define “major bodily functions.” However, we do have other laws that define “major bodily functions.”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, major bodily functions include “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
Before I go any further, you should know that third-trimester abortions are rare. Lawmakers who introduced the bill admitted that there had only been two late-term abortions reported in the last three years.
What I don’t understand is.. why carve out an exception for “psychological conditions?” By doing so lawmakers have made a backhanded statement about mental illnesses: Mental illnesses aren’t as serious as “physical” illnesses. In other words,”We’re not going to let you use mental illness as an excuse – we don’t buy it.”
Only one lawmaker caught this slight and spoke out. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.
“I believe the bill also narrows the exception and takes the mental health component out,” Joyner said during debate on the bill. “Mental health is physical health and if the woman’s mental health, as corroborated by her physician, is such that it impacts her, that choice should be between she and her doctor and her God.”
No other senators mentioned mental health during the debate.
Abortion definition available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 8 May 2014