Victory For Planned Parenthood — Florida Judge Permanently Blocks Abortion Law
Planned Parenthood in Florida received some good news this week after a federal judge permanently blocked an abortion law that would have severed state funding for preventative health services at women’s clinics where abortions are also provided. And a provision in the law that would have severely increased what providers called unnecessary records inspection requirements for abortion clinics was also permanently shelved.
Planned Parenthood will be able to continue funding necessary services
The ruling couldn’t come at a better time for Florida — Zika virus is now spreading throughout Miami Beach and north of Miami, said Gov. Rick Scott on Friday. Travel warnings advising pregnant women to avoid the area have been issued, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. So far, 36 cases of the virus have been confirmed.
Earlier this year, Scott signed a law that cut state funding to clinics that perform abortions, even though Florida law already prohibits state funding of abortion. The law prevented women from having access to affordable birth control.
Fortunately, now that Zika is on the march, Scott has changed his tune.
In June, just hours before the provision was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle placed a temporary hold on portions of the law that had been challenged by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Florida who contended the laws were unconstitutional.
Instead of taking the case to trial, attorneys for the Scott administration agreed to forgo additional legal action and filed a joint motion with the plaintiffs earlier this month to end the litigation. Hinkle discussed the motion in a brief hearing and issued his final ruling hours later.
“We are grateful the court stepped in to stop Rick Scott in his tracks and protect access to health care,” said Lillian Tamayo, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. “If this law had gone into effect, it would have made a bad situation even worse. With the threat of Zika growing by the day, this care is even more critical. It’s time to stop political attacks on women’s basic health care.”
In March, the legislation flew through the conservative Legislature with nary a problem and Scott signed it into law shortly afterward. The law targeted Planned Parenthood’s funding in the aftermath of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden’s smear campaign in which he alleged Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit. (Investigations into Daleiden’s allegations found no evidence that the health care provider was guilty of any wrongdoing.)
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise- available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” the judge wrote in June after putting the law on hold.
Florida doesn’t directly provide money to Planned Parenthood, but the repressive abortion law that Scott signed would have prevented state or local funds from going to organizations that also provide abortions. This would have prevented Planned Parenthood’s clinics from receiving about $500,000 to pay for health care screenings and a school dropout prevention program, officials said.
The law also contained a provision for doctors that was similar to a law in Texas that was struck down earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court. But in the Florida case, Planned Parenthood didn’t fight these provisions and Hinkle’s ruling doesn’t address them. Opponents of the law were also worried about strict requirements for records inspections at abortion clinics, and the concern was that it would jeopardize patient privacy by making it easier to investigate a patient’s mental health history, abortion care history, and HIV status.
Scott said he would allocate $26 million in state funds to deal with the Zika crisis — part of that would pay for CDC Zika prevention kits. These kits include two kinds of mosquito repellent, condoms, and tablets that kill mosquitoes in water. The governor also said his office and Florida’s Department of Health planned to go door to door to educate women living in areas of concern about the risks this virus poses. Whether any of this has happened isn’t clear.
There’s a chance Scott’s administration could challenge the ruling, but his spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz wouldn’t say if the administration is going to do that. She noted, however, that Scott’s office was reviewing Hinkle’s decision but added that “Scott is a pro-life governor who believes in the sanctity of life.” But any appeal would be limited because the state cannot make new arguments or offer more evidence.
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Hopefully some of the Zika kits are now being distributed to the women’s health care provider, but as of Aug. 5, Planned Parenthood officials were still awaiting the kits from the Health Department.
“We haven’t heard about any kits,” Laura Goodhue, vice president at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida told Mother Jones. At the time, the organization also hadn’t received guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women when an outbreak occurs.
Since Scott is supposedly “pro-life” let’s hope he steps up to the plate for pregnant women and their unborn children. I’m not holding my breath because in his little budget cutting exercises he’s been known to pull the rug out from the poor, the homeless, and the struggling to the tune of millions of dollars.
What a guy.
Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images
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