The GOP-led effort to deprive Planned Parenthood of state funding, and impose new restrictions on abortion providers, is coming to a head next week. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has until March 26 to sign or veto the omnibus bill passed in a 25-15 vote this month by the Florida Senate.
The bill aims to prohibit state and local agencies from expending funds or initiating new contracts with organizations that own, operate, or are in any way affiliated with clinics that perform abortions.
Abortions, however, make up only a small portion of the services provided by Planned Parenthood, while the bulk of them consist of Pap tests, breast exams, tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, and others aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies altogether. More than 67,000 Floridians, a majority of them in low-income households, rely on the women’s health organization to receive these services, Planned Parenthood says.
Several Republican lawmakers have offered up a list of alternative facilities, hoping to debunk the notion that defunding Planned Parenthood would leave thousands of Florida women stranded without proper reproductive care.
Among the list: elementary schools, pediatric clinics, dental offices, foot and ankle specialists, and optometry centers.
The tactic is not new. Last year, in its bid to shutter Louisiana’s abortion clinics, attorneys for the state argued that over 2,000 family planning providers were available to fill Planned Parenthood’s shoes. “It strikes me as extremely odd,” Judge John deGravelles replied, “that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services.” Revising the list, the state’s attorneys were forced to exclude 1,979 of the previously cited “family planning alternatives.”
In advance of Gov. Scott’s decision, Planned Parenthood has unleashed a $100,000 ad buy to combat the defunding effort.
“This bill would strip many women of their access to basic healthcare, such as cancer screenings, birth control and abortion,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement. “As a healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood knows how laws like this leave women devastated. Women in Texas have been forced to drive hundreds of miles to access abortion, or self-induce abortion without medical supervision. Now Florida is poised to follow Texas’ shameless example.”
“At Planned Parenthood, our doors are open,” she added. “We are here for our patients and will fight this with everything we’ve got.”