Advocates Deliver Petitions In Opposition Of New Abortion Bill

Mar 17, 2016

Credit Nick Evans

Abortion rights advocates are trying to convince Florida Governor Rick Scott to veto sweeping new abortion legislation.  They delivered 12,000 petitions to Scott’s office Thursday.

About a week ago, the Florida Legislature approved a package of new abortion restrictions.  Groups like Planned Parenthood and Florida NOW—that’s the National Organization for Women—lobbied lawmakers to block its passage.  Now they’re turning their attention to the governor.

Florida NOW lobbyist Barbara Devane joined a group from Planned Parenthood Thursday to deliver petitions. 

“So these are over 12,000 signatures requesting Governor Scott to veto Senate Bill 1722, and House Bill 1411,” Planned Parenthood activist Regina Sheridan explained while dropping off the paperwork.

The legislation redefines trimesters—making it more likely for procedures to fall under stricter regulations.  It also blocks all taxpayer funds for organizations that provide abortions—regardless of whether that money pays for the procedure.  But the provision getting the most attention requires abortion providers have admitting privileges or a transfer agreement at a nearby hospital.

“With what this legislation proposes it would make access much harder,” Sheridan says, “so although it doesn’t outright outlaw abortion it does make it very, very difficult to access.”

“That’s not ok.”

A number of abortion providers are challenging similar Texas legislation in the US Supreme Court.  If the high court sides with Texas, and upholds its restrictions, the number of providers would drop to about 10.  

Before the law passed there were 40.

“That’s what they’re doing,” Devane says. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

“They know abortion is legal in this country so they know they can’t get around that,” she goes on, “so they’re shutting them down by no access.”

Sponsors of Florida’s measure argue the allowance for hospital transfer agreements instead of admitting privileges sets their idea apart from Texas.  But American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Julia Kaye is skeptical.  She’s currently tied up in a case challenging Florida’s abortion waiting period law passed last year.

“I think that, both the omnibus bill in Florida and the targeted regulation of abortion providers in Texas are of a piece,” Kaye says, “because they are onerous restrictions on abortion providers that are designed to shut clinics down.”

Considering Governor Scott’s antagonistic posture toward Planned Parenthood—particularly after a series of heavily edited videos critical of the organization became public—those petition signatures may fall on deaf ears.  Abortion advocates appear ready to take the matter to court if he signs off on the measure.  Whatever he chooses, Scott has until March 26 to decide.  If he does nothing the bill would become law.

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