Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Talks Up Taking Medical Decisions From Families

Robin Marty

Republican candidate Rick Scott talks on the stump about his "pro-life" victory, but the family involved has a different story.

Florida received a great deal of attention when Governor Jeb Bush stepped in to try to deny Terri Schiavo’s husband the right to make medical decisions for his wife. Now it looks like Gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott would like to follow in Bush’s footsteps, based on his new favorite anti-choice stump speech talking point based on a case 20 years ago.

In 1990, parents of Sidney Miller, an infant born very prematurely at 23 weeks gestation with neither the ability to breath nor circulate blood on her own, chose not to allow further medical interventions to be performed on their child. The parents now say that doctors at the hospital at which their baby was a patient–and of which Scott became CEO– disregarded their health directive and instead performed surgeries that left the baby alive, but with nothing resembling a functioning life.

From Mother Jones magazine:

Ultimately a court ruled that the Millers, not the hospital, were best positioned to make decisions like those surrounding Sidney’s birth. The court awarded the Millers $43 million. Rick Scott, when interviewed by the Times, said he couldn’t remember the specifics of the Millers’ case, other than to say, “I believe that when a child is born, as a medical entity you take care of that child and do everything you can to preserve that life.”

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Not so, said Mark Miller, Sidney’s father, who is clearly offended by Scott’s distortion of a chain of events that forever altered the Millers’ lives. “Our case had absolutely nothing to do with abortion, nothing to do with pro-life advocacy, nothing to do with right to life. Our case was about consent to treat, a fundamental expectation that all parents deserve.”

Due to the the hospital’s intervention, Sidney is now 20 years old, blind, brain damaged, unable to walk, prone to seizures and in need of constant medical attention.  Rick Scott fought the 2003 lawsuit against his hospital asking for damages to cover care of Sidney, though he now claims the suit as proof of his dedication to life issues.  From a St. Petersburg Times editorial:

Scott uses this case to proclaim himself a “prolife leader.” In referring to Sidney’s case he said, “We lost a $43 million lawsuit because we saved the life of a child that the parents didn’t want us to.” Scott’s hospital company had bought Women’s Hospital as part of a chain in 1994. As CEO of Columbia/HCA, Scott decided to continue to fight the Millers’ lawsuit. Eventually a jury awarded the Millers $43 million to cover Sidney’s expenses, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Any claim that Scott’s decision to battle the Millers’ lawsuit was a matter of principle is disingenuous at best. This was about the bottom line. Scott’s efforts were to keep the hospital from being on the hook for a fortune in medical bills and professional care for Sidney throughout her life — expenses that Scott was all too happy to dump on the Millers.

Once more, anti-abortion politicians show that their real concern ends the moment the the baby is born.  Sounds like a true “pro-life victory.”

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“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,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

News Abortion

Abortion Providers Could Recoup Millions From Wisconsin After Fighting Unconstitutional Anti-Choice Law

Michelle D. Anderson

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women's Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services.

Abortion providers serving Wisconsin residents could recoup nearly $1.8 million in legal fees they amassed while fighting an anti-choice law that was first blocked in 2013. However, spokespeople for the State of Wisconsin have raised the possibility of an undisclosed settlement.

In a U.S. District Court filing dated July 28, the providers requested an award of “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses” that could be recouped under the Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fee Awards Act of 1976. On Wednesday in response, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel asked the court to extend the due date for the state to respond from August 18 to September 1. The request was granted, according to court documents.

“The parties are currently discussing settlement of the plaintiffs’ motion. An extension of the briefing schedule would allow the parties the opportunity to explore the possibility of a settlement of this issue,” Schimel said in the court filing.

The providers seeking money include Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Milwaukee Women’s Medical Services, which conducts business as Affiliated Medical Services. The sum requested includes $1.7 million in attorneys’ fees, $44,253 in billable costs and $22,545 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to the court filing.

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The providers amassed the fees fighting Wisconsin Act 37 of 2013, a Republican-initiated law that required doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the location where an abortion was to be performed.

U.S. District Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin blocked the law’s enforcement soon after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed it in 2013.

The state attorney general twice appealed to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision both times; the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to take the case a day after overturning a similar provision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

In a Court of Appeals opinion issued in November 2015, the court said there was no evidence that “transfer agreements provide inferior protection to the health of women undergoing abortion compared to admitting privileges.” The opinion concluded by saying the unconstitutional statute was burdensome and curtailed citizens’ constitutional right to an abortion.

“The statute may not be irrational, yet may still impose an undue burden—a burden excessive in relation to the aims of the statute and the benefits likely to be conferred by it— and if so it is unconstitutional,” the court said.

If not blocked, the law would have forced pregnant people in various parts of the state to travel at least an extra 200 miles round trip to access legal abortion, according to a previous Rewire report.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesperson for Schimel, had indicated in statements to the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this month that the state would fight the charges for legal fees. He said Schimel would challenge the providers’ request “to ensure that the state is not paying more than it should be for those fees,” according to local news reports.

Koremenos did not respond to Rewire’s request for comment.

Walker also supported fighting the fees, his spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel.

Ismael Ozanne, the district attorney for Dane County, was also named as a defendant in the providers’ lawsuit, along with several state medical examining board members.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin spokeswoman Iris Riis told Rewire the money Planned Parenthood is seeking in this case is only a recoup of the legal fees already spent fighting the unconstitutional admitting privileges law.

“There would not be any leftover money to allocate to services or any fund. It would just cover what was already spent. Governor Walker’s administration appealed multiple definitive rulings, wasting countless taxpayer dollars in the process. That action also drove up our legal costs,” Riis said.

Riis said the plaintiffs do not know when Conley will issue the ruling that will determine whether Schimel will have to compensate them for legal fees.

Andrew Wiseman, a deputy clerk in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, told Rewire the court could not offer a prediction about the date of Conley’s ruling.

Affiliated Medical Services, which operates a clinic in Milwaukee, is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, while private attorneys are representing Planned Parenthood.

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