Many abortion clinics across Florida may be forced to shut down if a new bill requiring new licensing procedures gets a seal of approval from the Florida Legislature this year.
The legislation, HB 233, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, would make abortion clinics offering procedures during the second and third trimester to go through the same licensing procedures as hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and mobile surgical facilities.
Supporters of the proposal say patient safety is the utmost priority and the biggest reason the bill should pass. The legislation would require abortion clinics to submit their construction plans to the Agency for Health Care Administration, which would determine the clinics’ regulations.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, told committee members the legislation added “extra levels of protection” for women seeking abortions.
“If a woman goes [to a clinic], they need to know their safety is paramount,” said Diaz.
Some committee members agreed.
“This is a bill that will protect and enhance women’s health,” said committee member Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.
Opponents of the legislation, say that wouldn’t be the case. They contend the bill would severely limit women’s reproductive rights, forcing many abortion clinics in Florida to close down due to overregulation.
“These laws have nothing to do with protecting women and everything to do with shutting down providers by placing unreasonable building requirements on health care centers,” wrote the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood on the bill.
Pro-abortion groups agreed, saying the legislation unfairly targeted abortion clinics. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which came out against the bill, pointed to similar controversial legislation which passed through Texas in 2014 and is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Florida Legislature’s actions are imprudent, wasteful and unconstitutional – there is simply no compelling reason to move forward with this legislation until the Supreme Court rules,” said Michelle Richardson, Director of Public Policy for ACLU of Florida.
A ruling on the Texas legislation is expected later this summer.
Similar legislation has been blocked from taking effect in other states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
“These personal decisions belong with a woman, her family, and her doctor, not politicians at the Capitol,” Richardson continued.
“The idea behind [the bill] is one that we should all be very familiar with...if you put as many onerous, unnecessary and expensive regulations as possible onto abortion providers, that you will force many of them to close,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith of Equality Florida. “We all know that that’s the goal here. That’s the point of this legislation.”
Smith said the bill was part of a larger agenda to limit reproductive rights.
“These attacks roll back very hard fought freedoms,” he said. “It will devastate many low-income women who cannot afford to travel longer distances because abortion providers in their areas have been shut down.”
Just because the bill saw success in the House Health Innovation subcommittee doesn’t mean it will pass through all the stops necessary to become law in Florida. The bill still needs a Senate sponsor, but if courts step in, the bill may be headed nowhere due to a legal challenge.
See the full text of the bill here.