Florida Bill Restricting Abortions, Planned Parenthood Goes to Gov. Scott - NBC 6 South Florida

Florida Bill Restricting Abortions, Planned Parenthood Goes to Gov. Scott

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    A bill adding new restrictions on abortion and prohibiting public money from going to Planned Parenthood is headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

    The state Senate passed the bill Wednesday 24-15, largely along party lines, following House passage last week.

    The legislation, House Bill 1411, mirrors legislation being challenged in court in other states including Texas.

    Backers say it's aimed at protecting women's health and safety, but opponents say it's an unconstitutional attempt to restrict access to abortion and unlikely to survive a court challenge.

    State and federal law already prevents public money from paying for abortions, but the bill prohibits state money for any service by an organization that also provides abortions.

    Legislators said that will affect half a dozen clinics, including Planned Parenthood facilities that serve the poor under Medicaid and other federal programs.

    The bill requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or that the clinic have a patient transfer agreement. It redefines dates of gestation and pregnancy trimesters, which affect when abortions can be performed, and increases clinic inspection requirements and licensing fees.

    Scott, Republican, has declined to say whether he'll sign the bill. A spokeswoman said he'll review it when it reaches his desk.

    Senate sponsor Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the bill is about quality of care in clinics.

    "It is not a bill that restricts a woman's right to choose ... It's getting the same level of care that she would have if she walked into any other clinic," she said.

    Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said tax money contributes to clinic operations even without paying for abortions.

    "We pay their light bill, we pay their salaries, we pay all kinds of things when the state contracts with these clinics," he said. "Let's get Florida out of the abortion business."

    But some backers suggested they favor the bill as a restriction on abortions.

    "I rise to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, those sweet, innocent babies ... whose very lives are threatened," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, calling abortion "genocide."

    Stargel said patients at Planned Parenthood clinics will have alternatives available for services including contraception, pre-natal care and cancer screenings.

    Opponents question that. Karen Harris, chairman of the Florida chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which opposes the bill, cited an Immokalee Planned Parenthood clinic likely to close under the law.

    "A clinic with a mostly migrant population with really no other option for access to women's health services and contraception," she said.

    The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the bill could affect more than 7,000 patients in Medicaid and other programs.

    In Senate debate, opponents said the legislation would result in increased numbers of health-threatening, self-induced or illegal abortions, with no medical evidence that the bill's restrictions are needed.

    During consideration of the bill, "There were no statistics on substantial injuries or deaths," said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando. "No doctors, no nurses suggesting that the health of the woman was at stake."

    Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said the bill sprang from "a witch-hunt" against Planned Parenthood after last summer's controversy over allegations the organization sold fetal tissue.

    "It is not about protecting life," she said. "What it is, is the latest attack on a woman's right, a woman's freedom to control her own destiny and make up her mind about her own body without government officials telling her what to do."

    The ACLU is already suing the state over a bill enacted last year requiring a 24-hour waiting period for abortions. An ACLU spokesman stopped short of promising a court challenge over the new bill, saying it could depend on the outcome of the waiting period case.

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