New Abortion Restrictions On The Verge Of Passing House, Senate

Mar 3, 2016

Credit Jason Corey via Flickr

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case challenging a Texas law that requires abortion providers have admitting privileges.  Meanwhile similar legislation is marching through the Florida Capitol.

Monday this week, Senate lawmakers sent a package of new abortion clinic regulations to the floor.

“Nothing in this bill, as I’ve said before, is removing a woman’s right to choose,” Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) said on the floor.  “We’re just making sure that if she does make that choice, that the facility that she goes to has the same level of required care as we require of other similar facilities.”

Wednesday in the House, Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland) introduced the companion measure. 

“The bill requires all physicians who perform abortions in a clinic prior to the third trimester to have admitting privileges with a hospital within a reasonable proximity of the clinic,” Burton says, “unless the clinic has a written transfer agreement with a hospital within a reasonable proximity to the clinic.”

Pro-choice advocates call legislation like this a TRAP bill—or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.  The TRAP tactic drawing the most criticism recently has to do with hospital admitting privileges.  A Texas law carrying those provisions wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court this week, and similar language is part of Stargel and Burton’s bill.  Burton argues the inclusion of a transfer agreement sets their bill apart.  But Stargel and Burton go further than just requiring a relationship with a hospital.

“The bill prohibits public funding for an organization that owns operates or is affiliated with a licensed abortion clinic and provides exceptions for this,” Burton explains.

State health officials will actually have to apply for a waiver from the federal government to move forward with that provision.  Aventura Democratic Representive Joe Geller took Burton to task over the idea on the House floor.

“Would this bill prohibit any payments of any kind to planned parenthood?” he asked.

“At this point in time,” Burton responded, “today, since Planned Parenthood is an organization that is affiliated with abortions right now, with some exceptions that are in the legislation, it would.”

Geller pushed Burton on the reason why organizations like Planned Parenthood should be completely defunded.

“What is the purpose,” he asked, “of saying if the organization over here is engaged in providing legal abortions, why would we ban it over here from receiving reimbursement for completely unobjectionable services like pap smears or breast cancer screening?”

Instead of responding directly, Burton argued against using taxpayer money to pay for abortions but didn’t address why her measure cuts funds for other services.

“This bill clearly would be considered a pro-life bill,” Burton said. “It’s presented to you by a pro-life member of the Florida House of legislation, so I believe that tax dollars should not be spent on abortions.  I’m the sponsor of the bill and I’m asking the members of this house to make that decision also.”

Later, Minority Leader Mark Pafford asked House members to put their money where their mouth is.

“I’m weary of all the ways this body has tried to limit and restrict legal abortion,” he said, “I support legal abortion and a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive decisions.  Eliminating the constitutional rights of Floridians should not be done piecemeal—it should not be done incrementally.”  

“This amendment is simple.  It gives this body the chance to vote of legal abortion,” Pafford said.  “A yes vote bans legal abortion, a no vote preserves legal abortion.”

Pafford was prepared to vote against his own proposal, which other lawmakers quickly negated with a further amendment.  It seems an outright ban is a bridge too far for all but a handful of lawmakers.  Even if it weren’t, such a proposal would likely find itself tied up in the courts immediately.

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