Lawmakers Mark Roe Anniversary With Competing Proposals

Jan 20, 2016

Lawmakers pitching very different plans for pregnancy.
Credit Jason Corey via Flickr

This week marks the forty-third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.  But lawmakers in the Florida Legislature are busy re-litigating the issue with competing measures aimed at limiting and protecting abortions in the state.

Back in 1973, The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in Roe v. Wade. But more than four decades on, the argument over abortion is far from settled.  Last year the Florida Legislature passed a 24 hour waiting period law.

“Members what I’m asking you today is to allow a 24 hour reflection period,” Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mount Dora) said at the time, “to think through all the information she’s received from a face to face consultation with a doctor, the ultrasound she’s possibly viewed, and the challenges—as well as the opportunities—making the decision to have or not to have this procedure will present for her future.”

Her measure has since been enjoined by a state circuit court. 

This session, Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) has filed a bill requiring abortion clinics meet the same licensing requirements as ambulatory surgical centers.  But when his bill came up in committee Trujillo was by his wife’s side as she gave birth to their fourth child.  Fellow Rep. Jose Diaz (R-Miami) introduced the measure instead.

“You know what I’m going to do,” he jokes, “I’m going to make sure that whenever I have a controversial bill that I’m not here so representative Trujillo can represent me.”

Speaking before the House Health Innovation Committee, Diaz argues Trujillo’s bill is aimed at protecting the health of the mother.

“I think that the state interest here would be to make sure that there are standards in statute that heighten the requirements of health at certain facilities the same as they do for ambulatory care centers,” Diaz says.  “Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice I think that one thing that’s for sure is that you believe that the health of the mother is very important.”

“I don’t understand how changing the length of hallways and making different sized rooms does anything to protect women’s health.” Rep. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) retorts at press conference Wednesday.

She and other critics of Trujillo’s bill compare it to a similar measure in Texas.  They say the elevated licensing requirements there have made it difficult for existing clinics to continue operating or for new ones to open, and the net effect is women in the state will have a harder time getting an abortion.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a challenge against the Texas law—the decision will likely come out in June. 

Meanwhile Berman and Senate Majority Leader Arthenia Joyner have a bill of their own.  It’s a contraceptive pilot program in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.   

“The pilot program we’re seeking to establish through this measure would mirror the highly successful one in Colorado in which birth and abortion rates plunged once women there began using long acting reversible contraception or LARCs such as IUDs or hormonal implants,” Joyner says.

Colorado health officials say the abortion rate for teens dropped by more than 40 percent in the first four years.  And according to Colorado’s figures it’s a good investment.  The health department there says every dollar invested in the LARC program saved the state almost six in potential Medicaid costs. 

The Florida plan appropriates $75,000 for the effort. 

“We have the opportunity to save Florida tax payer dollars and empower women,” Berman says.  “The pilot program gives women control of their reproductive rights.” 

“It’s fitting that we promote this program on the eve of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” she says. “With this legislation we can continue the legacy of protecting women’s rights.”

Trujillo’s measure implementing higher licensing standards passed its first committee hearing earlier this week along party lines.  Berman and Joyner’s legislation faces three committees in both chambers, but it has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.