News Law and Policy

Drug Tampering Case May Give New Life to Long-Stalled Florida Anti-Choice Bill

Robin Marty

State Rep. Larry Ahern is hoping that with a new name and help from the woman whose boyfriend allegedly tricked her into taking medication that caused her to have an early abortion, 2014 may be the year his anti-choice bill finally passes.

Florida state Rep. Larry Ahern (R-St. Petersburg) has never managed to get his “Offenses Against Unborn Children” bill passed through both chambers of the Florida legislature, but he is hoping that with a new name and help from the woman whose boyfriend allegedly tricked her into taking medication that caused her to have an early abortion, 2014 may be the year he finally succeeds.

Rep. Ahern told the Tampa Bay Times in an interview published Sunday that he is considering refiling his bill next month to be considered for the 2014 legislative session, but this time he may name it after Memphis Remington, the name that Remee Lee was reportedly going to give to her child, if she hadn’t lost her pregnancy at almost 7 weeks. Ahern said he will consider the name change to “personalize the issue and help gather the support it needs to pass.” He added, “It could help keep this issue out there.”

Lee’s lawyer said Lee will lobby lawmakers during the trial, and will consider public statements in support of a bill once the trial is complete if a bill has not yet passed.

If the new “Memphis Remington” bill is to be anything the most recent version of Ahern’s bill, it would change the legal code to say that if a pregnancy ends or a fetus or embryo is injured as a result of a crime, there will be an additional criminal charge, regardless of the viability of the pregnancy at the time the crime occurs. That bill also stated that the perpetrator of the crime does not need to have knowledge that the person is pregnant at the time the crime occurs in order to be charged. The bill specifically sought to strike language in the current law, which applies only to “quick” pregnancies, or pregnancies that have reached the point of fetal viability.

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The bill died in the senate during the 2013 session, the 2012 session, and the 2010 session.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Florida Lawmakers Introduce Admitting Privileges Bill

Nina Liss-Schultz

Florida lawmakers last week introduced a bill that would require abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

Florida lawmakers last week introduced a bill, HB 147, that would require abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

Similar requirements in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, and Mississippi have threatened to shut down the majority of abortion clinics in those states, despite mainstream medical groups saying the laws are medically unnecessary. The admitting privileges provisions of HB 2, the Texas omnibus anti-choice law enacted in 2013, is at the center of the ongoing legal battle between abortion access advocates and the state.

And in Ohio, a law that requires all abortion clinics have a written transfer agreement with a local private hospital has led to the closure of a handful of clinics as Catholic hospitals refuse to enter into transfer agreements with abortion providers.

In both states, the number of abortion clinics has been cut by at least half.

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Proponents of admitting privileges laws charge that the legislation is based on safety, arguing that abortion providers should have an explicit contract with a hospital just in case something goes awry during the procedure.

This anti-choice argument is based on no medical evidence: According to medical professionals, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. Admitting privileges laws, the rules of which are not applied to other kinds of outpatient surgical centers, are instead a political tool to decrease abortion access, abortion proponents charge.

News Law and Policy

Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pregnant Workers

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A 6-1 ruling gives pregnant workers in Florida more legal protections from on-the-job discrimination.

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that a state law barring discrimination based on gender can cover claims of pregnancy discrimination. It’s an important ruling for pregnant workers in the state, but also highlights the need for updated protections for pregnant workers nationwide.

Peguy Delva, who filed the case, worked as a front desk manager for the Continental Group, a property management firm. She claimed that once her employer found out she was pregnant, the firm would not allow her to cover other workers’ shifts nor would the company schedule her for work after her maternity leave was up. Delva sued under the state’s 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act, claiming the firm’s conduct amounted to pregnancy discrimination in violation of the act. The law bars employers from discriminating based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.” But Delva lost her claims at both the trial court and court of appeals after both courts concluded that while it was clear Delva had suffered from discrimination, the Florida Civil Rights Act did not cover claims of pregnancy discrimination because “pregnancy” was not a protected status listed under the law.

Last week’s decision reverses that conclusion. “Indeed, the capacity to become pregnant is one of the most significant and obvious distinctions between the female and male sexes,” the court wrote. For this reason, the court held, discrimination based on pregnancy is in fact discrimination based on sex and therefore covered under the statute.

Whether or not state civil rights law covers pregnancy discrimination claims is an important question. In 1978, Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which explicitly prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. While the PDA offers an important first step in protecting pregnant workers’ rights, the statute doesn’t cover all employers, leaving many workers vulnerable to on-the-job discrimination. Furthermore, many states, like Florida, have civil rights laws that don’t expressly identify pregnancy as a protection, leaving employers an opportunity to argue their discriminatory conduct based on a worker’s pregnancy is not unlawful.

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The impact from the gaps in protections under the law is significant to pregnant workers and their families. A report released last summer by the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance found that pregnant workers face systematic discrimination on the job, including refusals for basic accommodations of the pregnancy or forcing pregnant workers to take unpaid leave.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision arrived at a time when the state legislature was working to fill the gap between state civil rights protection and federal law. The Florida Senate unanimously approved SB 220, which would add pregnancy to the list of protected classes under the state law. Meanwhile, HB 105, a companion measure, is ready for a vote. Should the measures be enacted, they would codify into statute the Florida Supreme Court’s decision.