Women’s health advocates from Planned Parenthood are calling on Florida lawmakers to expand insurance coverage to more than 1 million low-income people. The group is the latest of many who are rallying in support of the government’s expanding healthcare. Meanwhile the Florida Legislature continues debating a couple of health care proposals.
Students and adults from around the state gathered Monday on the steps of Florida’s Old Historic Capitol. They held signs that said “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”
One of them was 18-year-old Jessica Oliveira from Broward County. She said, she and her sister are foster children, and they get health insurance through Medicaid. She wants the Florida Legislature to expand that coverage to more young people, especially college students. “Instead of passing laws to make it harder for women and girls to get the care they need, they should show real leadership and pass legislation to expand access to healthcare,” she said. “As a young woman who’s working very hard for a better future, I’m counting on the Legislature to step up and do the right thing. We need to put politics aside and women’s health first.”
The federal Affordable Care Act made federal money available for expanding Medicaid coverage to more than 1 million Floridians. The Florida House and Senate rejected that expansion last month. But a proposal by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) would use the same money to expand health coverage through a state program instead.
Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) said, coverage is coverage. “We’re going to continue to work with our legislators on the other side of the aisle. And we don’t care what they call it. We just want to make sure people are covered,” he said.
Planned Parenthood provides preventative care like birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. The group’s clinics also perform abortions, and it’s historically opposed any bill it sees as limiting a woman’s right to control her reproductive health. This legislative session is no different.
Joining the advocates on the Capitol steps, Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) said, “Many of my colleagues spend a lot of time trying figuring out how to limit women’s choices, limiting reproductive freedom.”
Later the same day, Planned Parenthood voiced its opposition to a bill by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). The measure, which passed the Criminal Justice Committee, would create a separate crime for a violent act against a pregnant woman that causes harm or death to her unborn child.
Sen. Chris Smith (D-Oakland Park) voted against the measure. He said, “So does the state attorney now go to the victim’s medical records, even without her permission, to see, was she pregnant? Is she pregnant? Could she possibly be pregnant? When was her last menstrual cycle? I mean, we’re going into some murky water here.”
Smith said he was also concerned about charging someone with a crime when they had no way of knowing a woman is pregnant. But Stargel said, it’s the same principle of charging someone in deaths resulting from drunk driving. You do one crime and also get charged for others that result.
“Whether they’re going to drive drunk or do a violent act against somebody, they can choose not to do that violent act and therefore not have the risk of being charged with this violent crime of killing the baby as well,” she said.
Stargel stressed that the measure would not apply to any act a woman does to herself, nor to abortions or medical procedures. It would only punish someone who commits a violent act against a woman. The bill has two more Senate committee stops and has yet to be heard in the House.