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House Panel Backs Lawsuits Over Abortion Injuries

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As a similar proposal emerged in the Senate, a House panel Wednesday supported a controversial bill that could help clear the way for women to file lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted 9-7 to approve the bill (HB 19), filed by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. Under it, physicians could face lawsuits filed by women who have been injured because of abortions or who have suffered emotional distress because doctors failed to obtain what is known as "informed consent" before performing the procedures.

The lawsuits would not be handled as more-typical medical malpractice cases, which have requirements that make them more difficult to pursue.

"This bill is about women's safety," Grall said before the vote. "It is about empowering a woman who has been injured as the result of negligence. It is about giving her access to a meaningful remedy."

But the bill has faced opposition from abortion-rights supporters, some physician groups and The Doctors Company, the state's largest medical-malpractice insurer. Mark Delegal, a lobbyist for the insurance company, said lawmakers should not "carve out" one group of physicians from the medical-malpractice system.

"This is treating one class of physicians different than another," Delegal said.

Nine Republicans voted for the bill, while five Democrats were joined in opposition by Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando. Also Wednesday, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed a Senate version of the bill (SB 1140).