It was the kind of bill that made Florida the subject of national ridicule once again: the Republican-led state legislature passed a measure intended to cut funding to reproductive health clinics, and in the process, the state would direct women to dentists and optometrists for reproductive care.
But the bill, signed into law late last week by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), is even more drastic than it appeared at first blush. The Orlando Sentinel reported over the weekend:
The law, which takes effect July 1, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, requires annual licensure inspections for clinics and bans the purchase, sell or transfer of fetal remains. The law upgrades the failure to properly dispose of fetal tissue from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor.
These provisions, of course, come on top of the bill’s principal purpose: denying public resources to women’s health clinics that provide abortion services. Taxpayer funding of abortion was already illegal, but the new Florida law takes a step further, blocking money for preventive medical care at the same facilities in which privately funded abortions occur.
Planned Parenthood, the intended target of the Republican offensive, noted that as a result of the new law, thousands of low-income women in Florida will no longer have access to contraception, tests for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. That, of course, is why the bill’s sponsors provided a list of medical facilities that will pick up the slack – a list that included dentists, optometrists, and health clinics in elementary schools.
For his part, Rick Scott did not seem eager to boast about his handiwork. On Friday, the far-right governor signed this legislation along with 67 other bills, covering a variety of areas. His office issued a brief press statement after the bills were signed into law, saying only that one of the newly signed measures “revises regulations for licensed abortion clinics.”
That made it sound routine and inconsequential. In reality, Florida’s new anti-abortion law is quite important, indeed.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the Florida affiliates.