03/01/2012 05:06 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2012

Florida House Passes Abortion Bill Requiring Doctors To Describe Fetal Pain To Pregnant Women

The Florida House of Representatives has approved a bill prohibiting abortions after the fetus has attained viability -- often reached around 24 weeks gestation.

It also dictates that no woman can have an abortion after 20 weeks unless the doctor informs her about how the fetus will suffer pain.

Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, HB 277 amends Florida abortion law, which currently only prohibits terminating pregnancy in the third trimester unless the life of the mother is at risk.

HB 277 will also change current Florida abortion law to include a 24-hour waiting period before any abortion, a yearly ethics course for abortion doctors, and that abortion clinics or physician’s offices performing abortions report demographic information to U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The ACLU of Florida called the bill "the biggest government invasion into the personal, private decision about whether or not to become a parent that the Florida legislature has brought forth in recent memory." The civil rights organization says it "seeks to regulate medical facilities which provide abortion care to Florida women out of existence and to intimidate and shame women with junk science about fetal development."

The requirement that doctors describe fetal pain was the last amendment approved before the bill passed in the House Thursday with 78 yeas and 33 nays.

Yet a House committee argued that it is uncertain whether 20-week-old fetuses feel pain:

...there is also research to suggest that despite the presence of such a physical structure within the fetus, it still lacks the capacity to recognize pain. In a 2005 review of the evidence, the American Medical Association concluded that: pain is an emotional and psychological response that requires conscious recognition of a stimulus. Consequently, the capacity for conscious perception of pain can only arise after the thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29-30 weeks gestational age.

The ACLU of Florida also spoke out against HB 277's requirement of a 24-hour waiting period:

The bill also adds a twenty-four hour waiting period as part of the informed consent that the woman must receive from the physician, which simply assumes the woman can’t make a sound, reasoned judgment on her own with her doctor as to whether or not she should wait 24 hours. That should be a decision left to the doctor and to his patient.

If passed in the Senate, the bill goes into effect July 12.