Florida abortion providers are concerned that proposed new rules, which are likely to become law, will turn the Sunshine State into the “Next Texas” — which is to say, the rules will cause many of the clinics to shut down, restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion throughout the state.
As the Guardian reports, a handful of bills currently making their way through the Florida legislature aim to put tight restrictions on abortion clinics, similar to the tight restrictions placed on abortion clinics in Texas. Depending on whom you ask, those restrictions are either intended to protect the health and safety of women passing through the clinics or a backdoor method of shutting down abortion clinics while not outright banning abortion.
In Texas, those rules have had the effect, intended or otherwise, of shutting down about half of the Lone Star State’s abortion clinics.
— Reuters Legal (@ReutersLegal) February 10, 2016
They have also had the effect of causing at least some Texas women to attempt self-induced abortions (so-called “coat hanger abortions”), according to Mother Jones.
Now, similar rules are proposed for Florida. One bill making its way through the legislature would require clinics that provide abortions after the first trimester to have equipment, processes, procedures, and other systems in place that are comparable to hospitals, an expensive set of rules that many Florida abortion providers would not be able to afford.
A second bill would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or for the clinic itself to have a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital, or both if the clinic performs abortions after the first trimester. The same bill also prohibits certain abortion providers from using state Medicaid funds to perform abortions. Although the law doesn’t name names, the Florida abortion provider that will be most affected by this law will be Planned Parenthood.
— Courier-Journal.com (@courierjournal) February 6, 2016
Florida state senator Kelli Stargel, the sponsor of the bill requiring admitting privileges, says she believes the proposed rules are not about shutting down abortion clinics in Florida; rather, they’re about making them safe for the women who use them.
“I’m not affecting the woman’s right to choose. What I’m trying to do is make sure that when she’s made that choice, it’s a safe choice.”
However, for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, such restrictions and requirements do nothing to protect the safety of women visiting abortion clinics; abortion is already a safe procedure, with a complication rate of only 0.02 to 0.05 percent.
“[Admitting] privileges requirements do nothing to protect the health and safety of women and are incongruous with modern medical practice. Scientific literature suggests that the safety of abortions performed in an office setting is equivalent to the safety of those performed in a hospital setting.”
It can be difficult for a doctor who works at an abortion clinic to get admitting privileges at a hospital, largely because many hospitals don’t want to find themselves caught up in the abortion debate and will simply refuse to grant privileges to a doctor who performs abortions. Kelly Flynn, the manager of an abortion clinic in Jacksonville, says that her only physician with admitting privileges quit recently because of harassment from anti-abortion protesters.
If the proposed rules get signed into law — Florida Governor Rick Scott is a Republican who has never vetoed any anti-abortion legislation — the number of abortion clinics in Florida is expected to drop by at least half.
Do you think Florida is right to try to impose the same restrictions on abortion clinics that Texas did? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Joseph Shom]