- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would strip Planned Parenthood of public funds and regulate the nation’s largest abortion provider in several key respects.

After overwhelmingly passing the state House last week, House Bill 1411 cleared the Senate by a 25-15 vote and now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who can veto or sign the bill into law.

The bill strips abortion providers of Medicaid funds and prohibits government agencies from contracting with facilities that provide abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and threat to the mother’s life.

The regulations mirror similar ones passed in Texas which are currently being challenged before the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Doctors who provide abortions in the Sunshine State would be required to have admitting privileges or a patient transfer agreement at a hospital “within a reasonable proximity to the clinic.” It is not clear whether the bill would close down any abortion facilities in Florida that cannot meet the regulations, as is the case with several rural clinics in Texas.

Proponents of the measure say it imposes basic quality of care standards on abortion providers in the state.

“It is not a bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose. … It’s getting the same level of care that she would have if she walked into any other clinics,” said Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, who co-sponsored the bill.

State and federal law already prohibit public funds from being used directly to provide abortions. But state Sen. Aaron Bean said tax dollars that go toward operational costs at such facilities are essentially subsidies on abortion.

“We pay their light bill, we pay their salaries, we pay all kinds of things when the state contracts with these clinics,” Mr. Bean said during debate. “Let’s get Florida out of the abortion business. That’s what this bill does.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the bill would leave women in Florida “devastated.”

“Florida would, in one bill, do the damage it took Texas years to inflict on women,” Ms. Richards said 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.”

Mr. Scott, who is pro-life, has declined to say whether he will sign or veto the bill.

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