This month, a vote of 9-4 resulted in the advancement of a bill (HB 1411) which would place additional regulations on abortion clinics. Before this bill, the following restrictions on abortion were in effect in Florida since December of last year:
- A pregnant woman must receive state-directed counseling and wait 24 hours before the procedure, thus necessitating two trips to a facility.
- Health plans under the Affordable Care Act will only cover abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is endangered.
- The woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, and the provider must offer her the option to view the image.
See Guttmacher Institute's page on state facts about abortion for more information.
HB 1411, which was passed on February 2nd, 2016, would include the following restrictions:
- Clinics providing abortions after the first trimester must have physicians with admitting privileges to nearby hospitals.
- Agencies that counsel women considering abortions must register with the state, unless they are counseling women against abortions (for example, pro-life churches counseling women will be exempt)
- Banning public funding for organizations that own, operate, or are affiliated with licensed abortion clinics.
- Prohibit selling, buying, or donating fetal remains obtained through abortions.
According to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), since the start of this year, state legislators have already introduced 147 bills either restricting or banning abortion. Many of these bills have been realized in the wake of the furor surrounding leaked, albeit heavily-edited, undercover videos attacking healthcare provider Planned Parenthood. Although subsequent investigations against Planned Parenthood have yielded no evidence of wrongdoing, and the anti-abortion activist responsible for the creation of the videos has recently been indicted, the controversy inflamed has spurred several running presidential candidates to call for defunding, even though much of the government funding that goes towards agencies like Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortion services, except in cases of abortion or incest. However, the damage has already been done; for example, in many states, like Texas, where lawmakers have successfully blocked services for reproductive health, there has been a spike in unplanned pregnancies and a decline in women utilizing the most effective means of birth control.
In the midst of the emotional debate that surrounds abortion and women's reproductive rights, it is important to consider how legislation on family planning impacts the lives of millions of women in the United States. Studies say that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and 4 out of 10 unintended pregnancies are terminated by abortion. In analyzing the attitudes and responses of politicians forming the language for and fueling laws targeting abortion service providers, the ideas and notions surrounding unwanted pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, while may be well-intended, are particularly problematic. For example, H.R. 36, the same bill co-sponsored by presidential candidate Marco Rubio that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, did allow exemptions for women whose pregnancies were as the result of rape or incest, however it granted this exemption only in the event that the woman had reported the attack. Many survivors of sexual violence will not report for a number of reasons including shame, fear of repercussion, and so on.
As we approach the election season, we should be mindful of the stances of political candidates on the issue of abortion and women's health, and what kind of environment their decisions on the federal, state, and local level will create for survivors of sexual assault or any women coming to terms with reproductive health.