Florida abortion law changes: What you need to know

The most important piece of legislation regarding the health of women in Florida could be passed by state lawmakers as soon as this week.

Introduced by State Senator Kelly Stargle, R – Lakeland, the Florida abortion law changes bill aims to put the squeeze on the 65 abortion providers in the state under the guise of “protecting” women’s health.

The bill is not brand new, but rather amends the state’s abortion laws already in place — and in some cases, the proposed Florida abortion law changes are drastic.

In Texas, where similar restrictions recently became law, an appeal has already made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court which is slated to rule on it in June.

You can read the full Florida abortion law changes proposal by clicking here — but here is a summary of the most dangerous portions of the proposal, and what it really means for women’s health in the Sunshine State.

What’s proposed: Removal of any state funding or Medicaid reimbursements for any services to clinics which provide abortions (even if that service is not an abortion). The exceptions to this would include rape, incest, or cases where the health of the patient is in jeopardy.

Florida abortion law changes

What this really means: A huge hit to women’s health as it relates to receiving abortions or receiving completely unrelated services, like pap smears, breast exams and mammograms. Sixteen Planned Parenthood locations in the state of Florida would be in jeopardy with these of being able to provide such services to low-income women. Throughout the nation, Planned Parenthood provides almost 400,000 pap tests and 500,000 breast exams annually. Planned Parenthood reaches 1.5 million young Americans every year with health education. Planned Parenthood provides 4.5 million tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and infections that include 700,000 HIV tests. Planned Parenthood helps prevent 516,000 unintended pregnancies each year. Just 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides relate to abortions. (see all the Planned Parenthood stats I just listed, and more, by clicking here)

Are we really willing to put the funding for these vitally important health services in jeopardy for the sake of a small percentage of women who are seeking a legal health procedure for variety of reasons? Can we really afford Florida abortion law changes like this?

Now let me throw some more statistics at you, and these are specifically aimed at those people who think restricting abortion laws will actually mean that less women terminate pregnancies (hint: it won’t). Hat tip to the Orlando Women’s Center for compiling these (and some of the stats I list in the next point).

  • Making abortion illegal or legal has no effect on the total number of abortions performed in the world. Making abortion legal dramatically reduces maternal morbidity and mortality
  • Approximately 25% of the world population lives in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America
  • One woman dies every 7 minutes around the world due to an unsafe illegal abortion. Women who undergo illegal abortions are those who are very poor and do not have access to family planning facilities for education and prevention of unwanted pregnancies
  • Annually, 42 million women choose to terminate their pregnancy globally, and close to half of those (20 million) are illegal

Women have been finding ways to terminate unwanted pregnancies since the dawn of time — and modern medicine provides a safe, regulated way to protect women and their bodies when this is the choice they make, whatever the reason.

What’s proposed: Requiring abortion physicians to have hospital-admittance privileges. Proponents say this in the interest of women’s health, particularly in cases when complications from abortions occur.

What this really means: An extra hoop for abortion providers to jump through that is unnecessary. Think about it — the last time you visited an emergency room for the flu or a broken bone, did your primary care physician show up? How about your child’s pediatrician? No. The very well-trained hospital staff took care of your needs. That’s just how it works.

But let’s play into this argument from supporters of this plan, that it would further protect women’s health. Where is the outcry for midwives and doulas who perform home births, or deliver babies off-site from hospitals, to have the same credentialing? The Orlando Women’s Center reports that less than 0.3 percent of women who undergo abortions end up at the hospital with complications. Let’s compare that to data from Colorado (the only state that requires such detailed reporting from midwives and non-hospital birth practitioners) from 2009 where midwives performed 637 deliveries and transferred another 160 patients to the hospital either before or during labor (that’s 20 percent of 797 deliveries). Of those deliveries, there were nine perinatal deaths (three during labor) — nearly double the perinatal mortality rate for the whole state. If any of these midwives had hospital admittance privileges it was because they went above and beyond to receive it. The state does not require it for the legal practice of delivering babies outside a hospital setting.

Based on this example alone, the risk to the health of women who choose to give birth outside a hospital setting is much higher than a woman who has a legal abortion. Yet abortion providers are the only ones being targeted for this extra layer of “women’s health” protection. It simply doesn’t add up and certainly weakens the argument that abortion restrictions are in the name of keeping women healthy and safe.

What’s next?

Not included in this particular Florida abortion law changes proposal, but still very much an important factor in women’s access to abortions, is a new state law that took effect on July 1 requiring women to wait 24 hours for an abortion. So far, this law has not actually been enforced because Planned Parenthood was successful getting an injunction while a lawsuit against it is ongoing. It’s on the radar though and could be enforced soon if the lawsuit is lost.

If Florida continues to take its cues on abortion restrictions from other states, like Alabama, we may soon see more steps like banning facilities that provide abortion services from practicing within 2,000 feet of a school (currently being considered in that state). If this proposal sounds like it is comparing abortion providers to convicted sex offenders, it’s because…well, that’s exactly what it’s doing. The last time I checked no abortion provider actually uses that word in its signage. More often than not, you will see the terms “women’s health center” or “women’s wellness center.” These facilities are also not doing anything illegal, yet here we are with a proposal that implies these actual protectors of women’s health (in practice, not in empty rhetoric) are criminals who pose a threat to our school-aged children.

If you think these proposals are outrageous, contact your Florida representatives and let them know that you stand with women in the state. You can contact State Senator Kelly Stargle’s office directly at (863) 668-3028 or email Kelly Stargle by clicking here.

You can find your local Florida state representatives by clicking here.

For a look at the attack abortion providers are battling throughout the country, and in much more convincing terms than I can portray, watch this clip from John Oliver’s latest episode of Last Week Tonight (and stick around for the sleeping sloths in a bucket at the end).



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