By Barbara Hollingsworth- Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that defunds his state’s abortion clinics – including those run by Planned Parenthood (PP) – making Florida the 12th state to block state taxpayer dollars from going to the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The Termination of Pregnancy bill (HB 1411), sponsored by state Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-led Florida House (76-40) and state Senate (25-15), and was included in a batch of 67 bills sent to Scott for his signature.
The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, prohibits any state funding to groups that own, operate or are affiliated with licensed abortion facilities. Florida law currently allows state funding for non-abortion services.
Abortion clinics are not allowed to “purchase, sell, donate, or transfer fetal remains obtained from an abortion… excluding costs associated with certain transportation of remains… Advertising, purchase, sale, or transfer of human embryos or fetal remains [are] prohibited” under the new law.
The legislation also “requires that physicians performing or inducing a termination of life procedure have admitting privileges at a hospital within a specified distance of location where the procedure is performed or induced.”
It also requires monthly reports by, and annual state inspections of, all Florida abortion clinics, which must meet the state’s regulatory standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including “emergency resuscitative and life support” equipment.
PP president Cecile Richards called the legislation “a cruel bill…designed to rip health care away from those most at risk.”
Richards warned that “thousands of people across Florida may no longer be able to access essential reproductive health care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”
But John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, applauded the governor’s action.
“This is a historic victory and we are thrilled to have been an active part of this effort,” Stemberger said in a statement.
Stemberger had urged Scott to sign the legislation in a March 23 letter, pointing out that “there are 636 Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) sites and Rural Health Clinics in the state of Florida which are required by federal law to provide either directly or through established arrangements” obstetric, gynecological and preventive health services, among others.
“These FQHCs provide far more care, not less, than the limited services that Planned Parenthood and similar abortion-centric facilities provide,” Stemberger pointed out.
Besides being “morally disqualified” from receiving taxpayer funding, he noted that “no Planned Parenthood facility offers the same level of care as FQHCs are required by law to provide.”
Besides Florida, legislators in nearly a dozen other states, including Texas and Ohio, have also voted to restrict state funding for Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos showing PP officials allegedly discussing the sale of aborted baby parts.
However, PP still receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, the abortion provider received $553.7 million in “government health services grants and reimbursements,” according to its 2014-2015 annual report.
In January, President Obama vetoed a congressional attempt to defund PP. Congress’ attempt to override the veto the following month failed.