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News > World

Women’s Rights Under Attack: Florida Rolls Back Abortion Access

  • Protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court takes up a major case focusing on a Texas anti-abortion law, March 2, 2016.

    Protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court takes up a major case focusing on a Texas anti-abortion law, March 2, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 March 2016

The “cruel” Florida bill restricting access to reproductive health care underlines the national weight of the Texas Supreme Court abortion rights case.

As Texas abortion providers take on regressive laws in the biggest U.S. Supreme Court reproductive rights case in over two decades, Florida’s Republican governorissued restrictions on abortion access and cut funding for preventative care in the state in the latest rollback in reproductive rights sweeping the nation.

RELATED: Supreme Court Divided in High-Stakes Texas Abortion Case

“This cruel bill is designed to rip healthcare away from those most at risk,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement following the decision Friday. “(Governor) Rick Scott has shown he will do all he can to strip basic care away from those who need it most.”

The omnibus bill passed in the Republican-controlled state despite fierce public opposition, including protests, a 12,000 signature petition, and a Planned Parenthood advertising campaign against the bill.

Thousands of people are expected to be impacted by the new bill, set to take effect July 1, that will slash funding for birth control, women’s health exams, cancer screenings, and other preventative reproductive health services offered especially to low income women.

The law also imposes harsh restrictions on abortion providers that have already proved detrimental to dozens of clinics. Doctors must have admitting privileges at a local hospital to practice abortion, and systemic barriers often make such privileges very difficult to obtain.

In Texas, a similar anti-abortion law passed in 2013 has forced over half of the state’s 41 abortion providers to close their doors, making it extremely difficult for many women, especially low-income women, to access abortions and other reproductive care.

The regressive attack on reproductive rights in Texas has prompted the abortion provider Whole Women’s Health to challenge the law in the most significant Supreme Court case on abortion rights in a generation.

The Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case is expected to set a crucial precedent in terms of whether conservative-controlled states will be empowered to continue to attack women’s rights and chip away at the historic 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973, as women across the nation say “we can’t believe we still have to protest for this.”  

In Florida, the new rules will also submit abortion clinics to more rigorous inspection and tighter rules on disposal of fetal tissue.

RELATED: Chilean Congress Approves Abortion Law

According to Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, the bill will cause teen pregnancies to rise, HIV rates to “skyrocket,” block access to basic care for those who need it most.

“For Rick Scott to prioritize political pandering over his own constituents’ access to health care is more than cynical, it’s shameful,” Goodhue said in a statement.

The bill will likely be challenged in court.

Backers of anti-choice legislation argue that it is designed to protect women’s health. But the rapid shuttering of clinics prove that the opposite is true, blocking access to basic care and pushing women in desperate situations to desperate and possibly dangerous measures.  

Another Florida law, passed last year, that introduced barriers to abortion aimed at discouraging women from following through by making them wait 24 hours before having the procedure, continues to face legal challenges after recently taking effect.

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