News Abortion

Florida Abortion Restrictions Pass House, Called “Righteous War For Children”

Robin Marty

A Florida state legislator decides children outrank women on the "righteous" scale.

The Florida House has voted to pass another batch of abortion restrictions, this time focusing on doctor “training” and procedures, clinic ownership rules and a 24-hour wait before obtaining a termination. 

But don’t you dare call these rules part of the war on women.

Via the Miami Herald:

Passage of HB 277 was unsurprising in the conservative-dominated House, though a handful of lawmakers from both sides broke party lines in the 78-33 vote.

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“This isn’t an insidious war against women,” said Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, echoing a talking point from debate. “It’s a righteous war for children.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/01/2670366/anti-abortion-measure-passes-house.html#storylink=cpy

This “righteous war for children” includes physicians taking ethics training classes, providing false info to women claiming fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, administering unneeded anesthesia during an abortion, and not allowing trained medical professionals who are not doctors to open new clinics in the state.

The bill is now being sent to the Florida State Senate, where it is unclear if a vote will occur before the session ends this year.

News Abortion

Florida’s GOP Administration Targets Two Abortion Providers After Failed Investigation

Teddy Wilson

The sanctions come in the wake of revelations that the administration edited a state agency press release about the results of an investigation into Planned Parenthood, and the resignation soon thereafter of the agency’s top communications official.

See more of our coverage on the effects of the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is moving forward with sanctioning two more abortion providers, unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood, with identical charges to those it alleged against three Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics.

The sanctions come in the wake of revelations that the administration edited a state agency press release about the results of an investigation into Planned Parenthood, and the resignation soon thereafter of the agency’s top communications official.

Scott said on July 29 that the state would investigate Planned Parenthood facilities that provide abortion services in response to videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice organization behind a series of videos spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood’s policies and practices concerning fetal tissue donation. CMP has released the attack videos in coordination with GOP legislators.

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Scott said in a statement that the CMP videos were “deeply troubling,” and that he was directing Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek to investigate Florida’s 16 Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortion procedures to ensure they were in full compliance with the law.

The Scott administration is now moving forward with identical charges against two other clinics, however, no press release or statement was issued from the governor’s office regarding the sanctions.

The Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center in Gainesville and the Aastra Women’s Center in Plantation have both received citations from the state for illegally providing second-trimester abortion services, reported the Miami Herald.

Julie Gallagher, who represents Aastra and the three Planned Parenthood clinics facing sanctions, told the Miami Herald that the state has changed the definition of the regulations that it enforces.

“The addition of the new term ‘weeks of gestation’ that is calculated somehow differently than ‘weeks LMP’—and is in fact some kind of different date—is evidence that they’re making it up as they go along,” Gallagher said.

Bob Weiss, an attorney representing Bread and Roses, told the Miami Herald that the agency had conducted regular inspections based on the “14 weeks since LMP” definition for years.

“As I understand it from talking to our client, that’s always the way that it’s been interpreted and always the way that they maintained their records,” he said. “This would appear to represent a change in position.”

Bread and Roses will reportedly file a response to the complaint next week and will contest the fines and a corrective action plan. The Aastra Women’s Center and Planned Parenthood have both already done so.

No evidence was found this summer that fetal tissue was being sold illegally in Florida after the Scott administration’s investigation into Planned Parenthood facilities across Florida.

The AHCA issued a press release on August 5 that an investigation had allegedly discovered three Planned Parenthood clinics were performing second-trimester abortions and the agency had ordered the health centers to stop providing them after ascertaining they didn’t have the proper licenses.

Top officials working in Scott’s office rewrote the agency’s press release and deleted any mention that Planned Parenthood had been cleared by the investigation of “mishandling of fetal remains.”

Emails between the governor’s office and AHCA, obtained by Politico through a public records request, reportedly show that the agency had prepared a press release stating that “there is no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state.”

AHCA communications director Katherine Riviere questioned why the press release was changed. “I would have thought a line on no evidence of mishandling of fetal remains would be included as that’s what questions will be on,” Riviere wrote in an email to Scott and ACHA senior staff before the news release was published.

Two weeks after the Scott administration issued the edited report, Riviere resigned her position.

“Katherine resigned on her own terms, she was not forced out,” AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman told BuzzFeed News. “Her resignation letter speaks for itself.”

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida filed a lawsuit on August 17 requesting an emergency injunction to block the agencies’ efforts to sanction the clinics.

AHCA claimed that three Planned Parenthood clinics, located in Fort Myers, Naples, and St. Petersburg, were performing second-trimester abortions, citing Florida administrative code 59A-9.019.

The inspection forms cite the definition of the second trimester of pregnancy as “following the 12th week and extending through the 24th week of gestation” as the reason for why abortions performed by the clinics from 13 weeks and two days to 13 weeks and six days violate the scope of the clinics’ license.

However, the inspection forms omitted the definition of the first trimester of a pregnancy, which is defined under Florida code 59A-9.019 as the “first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first 14 completed weeks from the last normal menstrual period).”

It is standard medical practice to define the first trimester as the completion of 14 weeks of pregnancy, measured from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. The ACHA adopted this standard definition in 2006, but the agency’s policy has apparently changed without notice.

“The state of Florida’s own records from nearly a decade ago confirm that Planned Parenthood is following the law, and nothing has changed,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement following the filing of the lawsuit.

Two days after the lawsuit was filed, AHCA general counsel Stuart Williams sent a letter to Planned Parenthood conceding that the state’s definition of the first trimester includes 14 weeks from the last menstrual period. Planned Parenthood dropped its request for an injunction and has resumed performing later first-trimester abortions at the facilities in question.

The letter claimed that “based on the information self-reported by Planned Parenthood abortions were illegally performed during the second trimester.” Planned Parenthood vice president of communications Eric Ferrero told The Hill that AHCA’s claim is “ridiculous” and “politically motivated.”

Republican lawmakers in states around the country have called for investigations and hearings into the Planned Parenthood in response to the secretly recorded and deceptively edited CMP videos, but to date none have uncovered any evidence that Planned Parenthood affiliates have broken any laws with regard to fetal tissue.

News Abortion

Fight Continues Over Florida’s Forced Abortion Delay Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A state court judge blocked a Florida measure on Tuesday that would add at least 24 hours and another trip to the physician for patients seeking abortion care. An appeal by the state means the measure can take effect anyway.

A Florida state court judge on Tuesday blocked an anti-choice mandatory delay measure, but an immediate appeal by the Florida Attorney General’s office means the measure can take effect anyway.

HB 633, passed by Florida GOP lawmakers in June, would force a patient to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having an abortion. It takes effect July 1.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the measure this month on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a Gainesville reproductive health-care provider, and Medical Students for Choice, an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.

Leon County Chief Judge Charles A. Francis’ order temporarily blocked the measure while the lawsuit challenging its constitutionality proceeds. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office then filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeals, triggering an automatic stay of Francis’ order. Attorneys for the ACLU then asked Francis to lift that automatic stay, which would allow his ruling to take effect while the case proceeds.

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Francis could rule anytime this week.

“We are very pleased that the court saw this law for what it is: an unconstitutional attack on the right of Florida women to make their own choices about their healthcare, including abortion,” Nancy Abudu, ACLU of Florida Legal Director, said in a statement following Francis’ order. “The Florida Constitution’s guarantee of a right to privacy protects women from laws like this that create needless roadblocks between them and their healthcare decisions. We are pleased that no Florida woman is going to be subject to these dangerous and unconstitutional delays before getting the medical care they need as we complete the legal challenge to this destructive law.”

Florida law already requires physicians to provide patients with certain state-mandated information, including the nature and risks of the procedure and the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, as well as the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus, as verified by ultrasound.

HB 633, passed by the state’s Republican-held legislature, requires that information be provided in person at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed, a requirement that is both unnecessary and unduly burdensome, according to advocates challenging the mandatory delay measure.

“The court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care,” said Renée Paradis, Senior Staff Attorney for the national ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”

HB 633 mandates that physicians and health-care facilities that fail to follow the mandatory delay requirements would be subject to disciplinary action, including license revocation, license non-renewal, and monetary fines.

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