The Florida House passed HB 277 yesterday, moving a bill on to the Senate that not only tells doctors what they need to tell their patients but forces them to tell their patients things that, according to doctors who actually know stuff, just aren't true.
Although the bill also includes a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions, the strangest section comes 11 pages into the bill's text -- a provision forcing doctors to inform women seeking abortions after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy that their fetus can feel pain and explain exactly which portions of the abortion procedure could theoretically hurt the fetus.
The problem? At 20 weeks, according to the American Medical Association, fetuses can't feel anything.
The bill says that "by 20 weeks gestational age, the fetus possesses all the anatomical structures, including pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, thalamus, and cortex, that are necessary to feel pain" and requires doctors to tell their patients such. But that's a lot like looking at a chair, a gas tank, and a steering wheel and saying you've got a road trip.
The bill also forces doctors to tell patients that "there is evidence that, by 20 weeks of gestational age, fetuses seek to evade certain stimuli in a matter that, in an infant or an adult, would be interpreted as a response to pain."
Ah, good. The legislative equivalent of "Did it just flinch? I think it flinched. Kinda looked like flinching."
And what doctors aren't forced to tell patients about? That time the Journal of the American Medical Association published a clinical study specifically debunking the notion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, a study done because legislators were going around saying things like this -- five years ago.
A House analysis of the bill does note the study but says the bill is supported by different studies that have found evidence of hormonal stress responses and fetuses recoiling from "noxious stimuli" at 20 weeks.
Surprisingly, the staff analysis leaves out the portion of the American Medical Association study that says that "neither withdrawal reflexes nor hormonal stress responses to invasive procedures prove the existence of fetal pain."
I'm not saying this is silly because of a wild murderous hippie loyalty to the pro-choice agenda. It's silly because an elected group of lawyers, retirees, and members of local chambers of commerce is essentially picking up a medical issue, looking doctors, patients, and medical researchers in the eye and saying, without a hint of irony, "Nah, we know better than you do."
All because, according to the House analysis, "there are studies that suggest that a fetus may have the physical structures to be capable to feel pain by the gestational age of between 20-24 weeks."
Apparently, that's good enough.