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Copyright 2000 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune  
The Tampa Tribune

June 29, 2000, Thursday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 592 words

HEADLINE: Florida abortion law at risk, too;



TAMPA - A Supreme Court ruling could spell trouble for those who support the ban on late-term  abortions in Florida.

A Supreme Court decision throwing out Nebraska's ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions may  doom a similar law in Florida, abortion proponents say.

The high court said Wednesday that Nebraska's law was flawed because it made no exceptions for  abortions a doctor deems necessary to protect the mother's health. Florida's law makes no such exception, either.

"I'm fairly well persuaded that today's decision is very good for us," said Charlene Carres, a  Tallahassee attorney who successfully mounted a 1998 federal court challenge of Florida's law.

"It makes it clear that you need a health exception, and Florida's law does not have one."

Even the author of Florida's law, Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, predicted a federal judge in  Miami will throw out the statute, but said it will be upheld on appeal.

Although some justices said Wednesday's decision won't bar laws that contain a mother's-health  exception, others said it could overturn laws in 30 states.

Carres, who won a federal court injunction against Florida's 1997 ban on "partial-birth"  abortions, said the mother's health has always been a major issue in late-term abortions.

"Ever since Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court has said any restrictions on abortion could not force  a woman to sacrifice her health or her life to continue a pregnancy."

Carres said she'll ask U.S. District Court in Miami to throw out the statute.

"I'm not big on guessing what judges will do, but the Supreme Court decision is very supportive.  It's good for us."

Cowin, however, said Florida's law is so narrowly drawn that it doesn't need a mother's-health  exception.

The state law outlaws abortions only after the fetus has nearly left the mother's body, she  said. At that point, it is the child's health, not the mother's that is usually at stake.

"When a child is ... half outside in the open air, so to speak, that child has rights as a human  being," Cowin said. "Killing that child is infanticide."

For that reason, she said, while she predicted the Miami judge will throw out Florida's law,  "That decision will be overturned on an appeal."

Wednesday's ruling drew barbs or applause, depending on where people stood in the continuing  battle over abortion.

"Because of the Supreme Court's decision today, unborn children ... across this country are at  risk of being pulled almost completely from their mother's womb and savagely killed," said U.S. Rep.  Charles Canady, R-Lakeland, a staunch abortion foe.

The decision also outraged a local women's health provider.

"I believe partial-birth abortion is an atrocity," said Cookie Gray, executive director of the  Brandon Crisis Pregnancy Center.

Protecting a woman's "health" is another issue, she said.

"What does that mean - an in-grown toenail? It's almost that ridiculous. Some people will have  emotional reasons to justify anything."

But at the Tampa Woman's Health Center, where abortions are performed up to 24 weeks of  pregnancy, the decision was hailed as "a victory for women."

"I think it's great that it was shot down," JoDell Nauert, the center's executive director, said  of Nebraska's abortion ban. "It's the patient and the doctor who should decide what's best, not the  Legislature, not your next-door neighbor. They don't walk in your shoes."  Jim Sloan can be reached at (813) 259-7691 and Elizabeth Bettendorf at (813) 259-7633.

LOAD-DATE: June 30, 2000

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