The Florida Legislature is moving forward with a bill that could restrict abortion access. But similar measures have been struck down in other states.
A bill filed by Republican Senator Kelli Stargel of Lakeland mandates hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers. Stargel wants these doctors to have relationships with local hospitals, allowing them to bring in patients for care. Stargel says the bill is about women’s health and safety.
“I’m not affecting the woman’s right to choose, what I’m trying to do is making sure that when she’s made that choice, it’s a safe choice,” she said.
But similar laws were ruled unconstitutional, and struck down in Wisconsin, Mississippi and Alabama. The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the Texas admitting privilege law later this year. The questionable constitutionality aside, opponents call the measure medically unnecessary and aimed at shutting down abortion clinics. And Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner of Orlando agrees with them.
“This body would never, ever pass anything that would restrict a man’s right to do what he wants to do with his body. And it’s time for us to consider that as women, the majority of the voters in this country and this state, that we should have that right to decide what’s best for us,” she said.
Research suggests that abortions are already safe. A recent study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that abortion is safer than childbirth. Women are 14 times more likely to die giving birth, than to die from an abortion. Public health experts are challenging the argument for admitting privileges. According to the American Public Health Association, these laws make it especially difficult for low income patients to get abortions. Senator Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood says the bill is a stumbling block for healthcare providers.
“So the witch hunt has to stop against Planned Parenthood. Currently there is no state funding for abortion in the state of Florida and I’m afraid that the reaction to what we’re experiencing today hurts prevention,” she said.
The bill would also ban public funding for abortion clinics. But Planned Parenthood and others don’t only provide abortions, they provide contraception, pap smears and STD tests. Opponents worry the provision will restrict access to preventative healthcare for low income Floridians. Senator Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens says defunding healthcare providers isn’t a fix.
“So it’s almost as if we’re simply saying we don’t want low income women to have a place to go to receive these services if we continue to take options off of the table. And I just can’t in good conscience do that. I just can’t!” he said.
The Senate Health Policy Subcommittee heard emotional testimony from both sides of the issue Tuesday. Gabriel Garcia-Vera represents the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Rights.
“This is unacceptable. And as someone who is both a birth advocate, and someone who has supported women through the difficult decision of abortion, we as a community stand con nuestra gente, nuestra communidad y nuestras familias. With our people, our communities and our families in standing in opposition to this bill,” he said.
John Stemberger represents the Florida Family Policy Council.
“The Clinton admin developed a phrase that came to characterize what it meant to be pro-choice or pro-abortion rights. And that phrase was, we want to see abortion to be safe, rare, and legal. If that is still the definition of what it means to be pro-choice or pro-abortion rights, then you can still affirm this bill,” he said.
Stargel says abortion regulation shouldn’t be taboo.
“So I’m tired of the double standard, when you’re talking about abortion we can’t have a conversation, we’re talking about the other things we can. I want to make sure we’re on the same page and that we as policymakers are adequately regulating abortions the same way that we’re regulating similar-situated facilities,” she said.
The Senate Health Policy Subcommittee voted Tuesday to continue that conversation. Stargel’s bill passed 5 to 3.