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State house bills target abortion

18 and life: a record number of legislative attacks on reproductive rights race through Tallahassee

Photo: Photo from Planned Parenthood, License: N/A, Created: 2011:02:26 13:58:00

Photo from Planned Parenthood

fighting words: Two Orlando protesters send a strong message at a February Planned Parenthood rally against federal cuts to women's health care, but the real battle is closer to home

"Keep your Boehner away from my PP," read one sign held outside of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's Robinson Street office at a Planned Parenthood-led protest on Feb. 25. The somewhat comical - and suggestive - call to arms was in direct response to the U.S. House of Representatives' legislative assault on Title X funding, which includes money allotted to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion-related health services, the preceding week. Participants in the rally were hoping to garner some public support (or honks from passing motorists) and send a message to Nelson and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio that politically transparent attacks on women's reproductive health would not go unnoticed, even though Florida's Planned Parenthood affiliates don't receive any Title X funding. They were there on principle.

"This false rhetoric is obscuring the facts," said Sue Idtensohn, Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando president and chief executive officer.

But the real fact is that the war on abortion is far more virulent in Tallahassee than it is in Washington, D.C., with a record 18 anti-choice legislative volleys currently clogging up the capitol pipeline. That puts Florida on a list with West Virginia (which has 34 such bills), Texas, Indiana and Montana as the top five states working behind the scenes to chip away at women's health while big-ticket budget issues like Medicaid reform and teacher merit pay grab the headlines. Meanwhile, legislators are also proposing massive cuts on family-planning services for Florida's poor population, a move certain to increase unwanted pregnancies.

"It doesn't make sense to me how legislators would want to restrict access to abortion while restricting funds to provide contraception, when we know that preventing unintended pregnancies prevents the need for abortion," says Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. "It seems to be a very backwards approach to reducing abortion."

While it may just seem like the same battle in a different year - many of the proposed bills are derived from legislative attempts from previous sessions - Kunkel, who is charged with arguing Planned Parenthood's case in committee hearing after committee hearing, says this year's onslaught is moving at a breakneck pace. Typically, the abortion drumbeat waits for the end of session; this year, bills have been sailing through committee early and fast. By the time the "hanky drops" at the end of the session in early May, any one of the following bills has a better chance of passing than it ever has before. The sneak attack on women in Florida is 
well underway.

HB 97/SB 1414 - Health Insurance

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and State Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, are attempting to make clear that there's absolutely no gray area on an issue where the gray area has already been taken care of. These conjoined bills basically restate the Hyde Amendment, a federal legislative provision barring public funding for abortion procedures, but do so by attaching a caveat that no insurance plans resulting from the insurance exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act will cover elective abortions. The trouble is in the fine print: cases of rape, incest or life-threatening conditions for the mother may be exempt, but make no mistake - the bill is an attempt to codify limits on abortion by not including non-life-threatening cases for the mother or fetal injury. If there were any doubt of its intent, just ask the bill's author. "Today we struck a blow for the pro-life movement," Gaetz cheered when the bill passed through a committee on March 16, according to The Florida Independent.

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