New abortion restrictions closer to becoming law in Florida

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – New restrictions on abortion in Florida won state House approval Thursday, including a provision aimed at preventing public money from going to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In contentious debate, supporters said the bill was aimed at protecting women’s health, but opponents said it’s an unconstitutional attempt to limit access to abortions and will end up in court, costing the state legal fees.

House Bill 1411 passed on a 74-44 vote, mostly along party lines. A Senate companion bill has passed its committees and is ready for a floor vote.

Some legislators on both sides say the bill may face more opposition in the Senate, but Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has publicly supported it.

It prohibits government agencies, including local health departments, from using public money to pay for any services from any clinic that also provides abortions. Current law prohibits public money from paying for abortions, but the bill would also eliminate contracts by which county health departments pay Planned Parenthood affiliates or other abortion providers for birth control and other services to the poor.

The bill says doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or the clinic must have a patient transfer agreement.

It intensifies inspection requirements for clinics that perform abortions and redefines gestation and dates for the pregnancy trimesters, which affect when abortions can occur.

Opponents criticized the lack of medical evidence for the requirements placed on abortion providers or for the change in definitions of the human gestation period.

They said it would be nearly impossible for physicians at abortion clinics to hold admitting privileges, because complications from abortions are rare and don’t generate enough hospital admissions to meet requirements for the privileges.

“We know what’s going on here,” said Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach. “What it really means is you’re trying to close these clinics through these regulations.”

That would only result in more health complications from self-induced or illegal abortions, they contended.

“There is nothing we can do that’s going to stop women from having abortions,” said Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura.

Current law prevents government money paying for abortions, but supporters including sponsor Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, argue that an entire organization, such as Planned Parenthood, benefits from money paid for any service.

“Public money should not go to facilities that mix the killing of innocent babies with real medical services,” said Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole.

Burton said she has heard from obstetrician-gynecologists that they see women with complications from abortions in emergency rooms, and that the bill would assure continuity of care.

Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, called it “a pro-women’s health bill” that “will insure better physical care and mental well-being for women.”

Similar laws passed in Texas and other states are being challenged in federal courts. A Florida law the Legislature passed last year requiring a 24-hour waiting period for a woman to get an abortion is being challenged in state court.

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