February 3, 2016 — A Florida House panel on Tuesday voted 9-4 to advance a bill (HB 1411) that imposes multiple restrictions on abortion clinics and the donation of fetal tissue, the Palm Beach Post reports.
According to state House staff, abortion clinics in the state currently are required to have either a transfer agreement with a hospital in the area or employ physicians who have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Clinics that offer abortion care only for the first trimester of pregnancy do not have to have transfer agreements or admitting privileges.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Colleen Burton (R), would require clinics that offer abortion care beyond the first trimester to have admitting privileges for their physicians at a local hospital and also have a transfer agreement with a hospital in the area. Clinics that offer abortion care only in the first trimester would be required to have one of these two types of agreements.
In addition, under the bill, any facility that offers abortion-related counseling to women would have to register with the state unless they counsel women to not have an abortion. Further, the measure would prohibit the allocation of public funding to organizations affiliated with abortion clinics. It also would ban the sale, purchase or donation of fetal tissue resulting from abortion.
According to the Post, some state lawmakers questioned whether the bill would shut down abortion providers who offer other reproductive health services, thereby limiting access to services such as cancer screenings and contraception.
State Rep. Janet Cruz (D) expressed concern about the effect on reproductive-age women, over half of whom have incomes lower than 138% of the federal poverty level. "I worry about the women in Florida who are desperately in need of publicly funded contraceptive services," she said.
She added that Florida has the country's highest rate of HIV diagnoses, "yet we want to put forward a bill that reduces access to HIV testing." She said, "This bill is much more than barriers to abortion -- this bill is barriers for low-income women to receive care."
Separately, Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida stated that the bill's provisions were not medically justified. "Rather, this bill is part of a politically motivated attack aimed at closing clinics by imposing restrictions that are impossible to meet, thereby blocking women's access to abortion," she said, adding, " That is why medical experts like the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose this type of admitting privileges requirement" (Palm Beach Post, 2/2).