Florida Just Passed a Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill, but Supreme Court Might Nullify It Anyway

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Florida Republican lawmakers have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but yesterday the Florida Legislature passed its most sweeping anti-abortion bill to date. It's headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk for a signature.

But significant parts of the bill may be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court by the time it even goes into effect. That's because the bill is modeled after laws in Texas that are being challenged in the Supreme Court. The Court's decision in that case is expected to be handed down in June. 

The Florida bill has several sweeping components: 

1. It legally redefines the length of trimesters. The second trimester would be declared to begin after 12 weeks and the second after 24 weeks. Most medical professionals agree those trimesters begin at the 14th and 26th weeks. 

2. It would require all physicians at clinics that provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which can be difficult to obtain. Current law requires only a clinic's medical director to have such privileges or requires the clinic to have a transfer agreement in place with a nearby hospital. 

3. It forbids the state from providing any money to any clinic for any reason if that clinic performs "elective" abortions. This measure is clearly aimed at Planned Parenthood, which, in addition to abortion, provides several other types of health care to women. 

4. The bill also adds several regulatory and review requirements for all clinics that perform abortions, including a passage that forces the Agency for Health Care Administration to review all clinics once a year and review at least 50 percent of the clinic's records. 

Supporters say the bill adds safeguards for a woman's health, but opponents say the bill drowns abortion clinics in regulatory red tape and will result in making it more difficult for clinics to operate and for low-income women to seek medical care. 

“Florida would, in one bill, do the damage it took Texas years to inflict on women," Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says in a statement. "This bill would strip many women of their access to basic health care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, and abortion. As a health care provider, Planned Parenthood knows how laws like this leave women devastated. Women in Texas have been forced to drive hundreds of miles to access abortion or self-induce abortion without medical supervision. Now Florida is poised to follow Texas’ shameless example. At Planned Parenthood, our doors are open. We are here for our patients and will fight this with everything we’ve got.”

Though women with enough money can simply afford to pay more for the procedure or travel to another state with less-restrictive laws, opponents say women with less money will be most affected by the law. 

Opponents also believe the law could lead to several costly legal challenges, with taxpayers left to foot the court bills. 

The bill passed 25-15 in the state Senate, with only one Republican voting against it. In the House, it passed 76-40, with the support of two Democrats (including Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell) and the opposition of six Republicans. 

The bill will now head to Scott's desk. Though he hasn't signaled his position on the bill, many believe he'll sign it into law. Then it's a waiting game to see what happens at the Supreme Court this summer.

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