TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Gov. Rick Scott has signed new laws that make it harder for minors to get abortions, require an ultrasound before the procedure and force women to wait 24 hours before ending a pregnancy. He also ordered a state agency to investigate 16 Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions.
But that’s not enough for a conservative group that says Scott can’t truly call himself an abortion opponent unless he cuts state money going to Planned Parenthood clinics through combined state/federal health care programs.
“This is going to be a new litmus test,” Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger said during a news conference Thursday.
There are questions about whether Scott could even cut off the state’s matching share of Medicaid money. Planned Parenthood said it would be illegal to do so, and Scott’s office pointed out that it is against the law to use Medicaid money for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother is endangered. Scott’s office said about $45,000 through state matching money goes to Planned Parenthood to provide newborn health screening and other services.
Stemberger acknowledged that the law prohibits public money directly paying for abortions, but said Planned Parenthood should be defunded because it’s shown a pattern of unethical behavior. He compared the organization to Nazi Germany.
“We’re not talking about the direct public funding of abortion here, let’s be clear on that, but we are talking about funding a corrupt organization that does abortions,” he said. “We’re not going to say, ‘Look, oh well, we no longer fund the extermination of Jews, but we think the Third Reich has some really good programs for women so we’re just going to keep their lights on.”
Florida’s Planned Parenthood director said Stemberger’s group is spreading falsehoods.
“The Florida Family Policy Council is relying on a long list of false accusations against Planned Parenthood to back up their call for Gov. Scott to further restrict Florida women’s access to health care,” Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates said in a press release. “We have clearly demonstrated that the recent round of politically motivated investigations in Florida uncovered nothing more than continued harassment from Gov. Rick Scott’s health care agency.”
The outcry against Planned Parenthood heated up after secretly taped videos were released showing the organization’s officials discussing the harvesting fetal tissue for research.
“As someone who is pro-life and a father and a grandfather, I believe we must not tolerate any gross disregard for human life. We took aggressive, immediate action to investigate Planned Parenthood offices in Florida when the horrific videos were released. When we found that some of their facilities were not complying with state law, we held them accountable,” Scott said in a statement released by his office.
The state found that three clinics were performing unlicensed second trimester abortions, a finding Planned Parenthood disputes, saying the state changed its definition of a first trimester.