Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Abortion Bill Placing Crist in a Dilemma; IF HE SIGNS Planned Parenthood Says "Thousands" of Women Lose Coverage. IF HE VETOES He Will Prevent a New Ban on Taxpayer-Funded Procedures

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Abortion Bill Placing Crist in a Dilemma; IF HE SIGNS Planned Parenthood Says "Thousands" of Women Lose Coverage. IF HE VETOES He Will Prevent a New Ban on Taxpayer-Funded Procedures

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - While most of the heated debate around an abortion measure passed in the waning hours of the 2010 legislative session has focused on a provision requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion, the legislation also includes a potential political land mine for Gov. Charlie Crist.

If Crist vetoes the bill, as he has indicated he is likely to do, he will also be nixing language that supporters say will bar taxpayer funding of abortions.

"We certainly are trying to bring that to the attention of everyone, because it's a very big issue," said John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, which supports the bill.

While opponents say those concerns are overblown, a veto could nonetheless give former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the presumed Republican nominee, a political wedge to use against Crist, now an independent, in their race for the U.S. Senate.

"If he vetoes the bill, that means that tax money, for the first time in Florida's history, will be used to fund abortions," said Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Keystone Heights Republican and staunch abortion opponent.

In fact, Rubio highlighted the issue in a statement last month on the abortion bill, House Bill 1143.

"If Governor Crist vetoes this legislation, he will clear the way for taxpayer funding of abortion in Florida, an extreme policy which runs contrary to the mainstream values most Floridians share," Rubio said.

The roots of the controversy lie in the federal health care reform bill that passed Congress this year. In a concession to abortion-opposed Democrats, the legislation required individuals to pay separately for any abortion coverage under state health insurance exchanges set up by the bill. It also allowed states to bar policies sold in the exchanges from covering abortion. …

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