Pregnancy Programs, Abortion Linked

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Some policymakers in Florida say they hope an upcoming clash in the legislature over abortion will provide fresh ammunition for the drive to fund programs for pregnant teen-agers and disadvantaged parents.

The Florida legislature is scheduled to begin a special session on abortion on Oct. 10. Gov. Bob Martinez, a Republican and a longtime pro-life advocate, called for the session in the wake of a July decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a restrictive Missouri law on abortion.

Mr. Martinez has asked Florida lawmakers to enact legislation similar to the Missouri law, which called for viability tests of the fetus and a ban on publicly funded abortions.

A second session called by the Governor would take place soon after the abortion session and focus on child abuse.

A number of lawmakers said last week that the abortion debate could provide some needed philosophical ammunition in their effort to appropriate money for programs whose4funds were vetoed by Mr. Martinez earlier this year.

Part of a legislative package known as the "children's initiative," the affected programs include a drop-out prevention plan targeted at teen-age mothers and another project designed to train disadvantaged parents of young children to be their children's "first teachers." Approximately $6.4 million was cut from those programs, according to a legislative aide.

"Certainly, in our minds--the minds of pro-choice people like myself and the House leadership--the issues are linked," said Representative Steve Press, a Democrat from Delray. He is chairman of the House health and rehabilitative services committee, through which any abortion-related bills must pass.

"The importance of giving a child an early good start far outweighs the issue of abortion," he said.

He said, however, that the effort to restore money for those programs would most likely come during ei8ther the session on child abuse or the regular legislative session beginning in January.

Representative Lois Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach and a pro-choice supporter, said she has called a meeting of a legislative task force she chairs on teen-age pregnancy for the opening day of the session on abortion.

"What we want to do is focus on preventing teen pregnancies and spotlight some of the hypocrisy of the antiabortion people," she said. "The same people who are saying no to abortions are saying, 'Don't teach our child anything but abstinence."'

Florida is among a number of state legislatures where action on abortion is expected to take place this fall. In Pennsylvania, a package of bills to restrict access to abortion is expected to be introduced this week and Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, a Democrat, is trying to convince lawmakers there to ease restrictions on public financing of abortion.--dv

Vol. 09, Issue 05

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