Florida lawmakers may be hostile to comprehensive sex education, but they have no problem leaving reproductive health care to elementary school nurses' offices. To back up anti-abortion omnibus bill HB 1411, which passed the state legislature earlier this month, conservative legislators have offered a list of places women can go for birth control, pap smears, and other reproductive services once Planned Parenthood is barred from taking Medicaid. That list includes dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.
One of the more common arguments from Planned Parenthood's Republican critics is that they're not actually fighting against all reproductive health services. Instead, GOP officials say, this is more narrowly focused: Republicans are against Planned Parenthood specifically, not necessarily women's health facilities in general.
It's no minor detail. Indeed, when GOP policymakers go after public resources related to Planned Parenthood, they'll sometimes say they're willing to redirect those same funds to other health centers. For Republicans, it seems almost personal -- their focus is on one group, its traditional bipartisan backing notwithstanding.
The rhetoric, as a substantive matter, has proven to be misguided, and the idea that other women's health centers can simply pick up the slack after Republicans defund their perceived enemy has been discredited over and over again.
But in Florida's Republican-led state government, the story has taken an odd turn. Slate reported this week (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up):
This may sound like an odd joke, but it's quite real.
The point of the measure is for GOP policymakers in the state to defund Planned Parenthood, not because the group has done anything wrong, but because of the Republicans' commitment to a culture-war agenda. As part of the effort, one of the legislation's chief sponsors produced a lengthy list of health facilities that already exist in Florida that meet a technical definition of a qualified health center.
You probably see where this is going. The Guardian reported, "As the bill heads to governor Rick Scott for his signature, several state lawmakers who have insisted that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual healthcare have cited a list of health centers that includes dentists, optometrists, and elementary schools."
This, of course, proved critics' point: sending women, especially those with limited financial means, to dentists, optometrists, and elementary schools for reproductive-health services is absurd.
Salon's Amanda Marcotte joked, "That's right: If your local Planned Parenthood gets shut down and you need a Pap smear and a birth control prescription, Florida Republicans will literally send you to a dentist instead. With that level of ignorance about female biology, one has to wonder how any of them have managed to father any children."
Florida's Republican governor is expected to sign the bill anyway.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the Florida affiliates.