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State Rep. Kathleen Peters has had to articulate positions on a range of issues in the runup to her Jan. 14 Republican primary, but now she’s got a new component to clarify: Her voting record in the Florida Legislature.
National Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, brought up Peters’ record on abortion in a Dec. 31 item on its website. In a short article written by political director Karen Cross about the special election’s candidates, the South Pasadena Republican was taken to task for votes in the 2013 legislative session.
"State Rep. Kathleen Peters has a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record – even voting against a ban on sex-selection abortions," the piece read. It also stated David Jolly is "the only candidate in the GOP primary who has taken a pro-life stand." The item added that fellow Republican Mark Bircher had not returned the group’s questionnaire and has refused to answer questions about the issue.
First Jolly accused Peters of refusing to ‘take a stand’ to repeal Obamacare (we rated that Mostly False) and now a conservative group says she’s for abortions. It looks like we have to check into her stance on an issue once again.
On the (voting) record
Like the Obamacare accusation, it was initially difficult to pin down Peters’ stance on abortion. During her campaign, she didn’t give a clear response to questions about whether she supported further restrictions on abortions, or if Roe vs. Wade should be overturned.
"Honestly I think that's a private issue. I think too often we put social issues into government that don't belong," she told the Tampa Bay Times. She continued, "I don't support government-funded abortions, but I don't support the government dictating to religious hospitals what they can and cannot do." She gave a similar answer on a Dec. 22 episode of Bay News 9’s Political Connections.
She was much more specific after the National Right to Life article came out. When asked about the issue at a Belleair Women's Republican Club meeting on Jan. 3, Peters said she was "absolutely pro-life" and had "voted on good policy that protects the unborn children." Her campaign said that she "has always believed that life begins at conception and should only end through natural death." The campaign has also said Peters may not have even received the group’s questionnaire.
Abortion bills didn’t fare well in the 2013 Florida legislative session, with most not getting past the committee level. Peters, who was a freshman representative last year, only had the chance to cast a vote on three pieces of legislation involving abortion-related issues. National Right to Life confirmed they were the three taken into account for their claim about her voting record.
HB 759, the Offenses Against Unborn Child Bill, sought to make the injury or death of an unborn child during the commission of a crime a separate offense with its own penalties. It passed the House along mostly party lines on April 18, 74-43. Peters and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, were the only Republicans to vote against the bill. The measure later failed.
The only bill specifically mentioned by Cross in the claim, the Ban On Race or Sex-Selective Abortions Bill, HB 845, is the one that dealt directly with abortions. The legislation required making doctors sign an affidavit before the procedure affirming they were not knowingly performing an abortion based on the sex or race of the fetus. Again Peters and Pilon voted against the bill, along with Republicans Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, and Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach. It passed the House on April 18, 71-44, but also eventually failed.
Peters’ campaign manager Mark Zubaly said the no vote was because although she opposed sex-selection abortions, Peters felt the legislation would have created unnecessary regulations for doctors without solving the problem.
Finally, the entire Legislature voted in favor of HB 1129, the Care for Infants Born Alive After Botched Abortion Bill. The bill required immediate medical care for fetuses born alive following an attempted abortion. It unanimously passed the House on April 17, and the Senate on April 30.
All three of those bills were listed under the Florida Family Policy Council’s list of "Good Bills" for the session, meaning legislation that furthered conservative, anti-abortion interests ("Bad Bills" dealt primarily with promoting forms of gambling and gay rights). Since Peters voted against HB 759 and HB 845, that’s two strikes, as far as National Right to Life would be concerned.
But then there’s HB 1129, which was supported by pro-life and pro-choice advocates.
Cross said the vote counted against Peters because she "did not co-sponsor" the legislation. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, introduced the bill, with Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, added on as a sponsor. Eventually 25 co-sponsors, two of which were Democrats, were added to the bill.
That sounds pretty nitpicky to us, since there were obviously plenty of other Republicans who didn’t co-sponsor the bill, but still voted for it.
Either way, Peters’ yes vote is what the anti-abortion lobby wanted for HB 1129. When we asked Cross to clarify whether her vote was negated only because she wasn’t a co-sponsor, she referred us to the Florida chapter of the organization, which didn’t respond to our attempt to contact them.
National Right to Life said Peters "has a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record – even voting against a ban on sex-selection abortions." It’s true that she voted against a sex-selection abortion ban, no matter what reasoning she offered as an explanation. Whether all her votes were "pro-abortion" is another matter.
Peters voted against two bills ostensibly designed to protect unborn children, but she voted for a third bill that aimed to save the life of children born after failed attempts at abortions. That doesn't make her voting record on the issue 100 percent "pro-abortion."
We rate this statement Half True.
National Right to Life, "A Special Election – Florida Congressional District 13," Dec. 31, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Kathleen Peters rejects antiabortion group's criticism," Jan. 3, 2014
WFSU, "Florida House Takes Up Many Measures; Includes Unanimous Vote On Abortion Bill," April 17, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "House passes two abortion bills after heated debates," April 18, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "A closer look at Congressional District 13 candidates," Dec. 23, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Political Connections Sun: Kathleen Peters vague on budget, abortion," Dec. 20, 2013
VoteSmart.org, "Kathleen Peters’ Voting Records," accessed Jan. 8, 2014
Florida House of Representatives, HB 759: Offenses Against Unborn Child Bill, accessed Jan. 6, 2014
Florida House of Representatives, HB 845: Ban On Race or Sex-Selective Abortions Bill, accessed Jan. 6, 2014
Florida House of Representatives, HB 1129: Care for Infants Born Alive After Botched Abortion Bill, accessed Jan. 6, 2014
Florida Family Policy Council, "Good Bills," accessed Jan. 7, 2014
PolitiFact Florida, "David Jolly says Kathleen Peters won’t 'take a stand' to repeal Obamacare," Dec. 27, 2013
Interview with Mark Zubaly, Kathleen Peters spokesman, Jan. 7-8, 2014
Interview with Karen Cross, National Right to Life political director, Jan. 8, 2014
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