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Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs tough new abortion law

By Eric DuVall   |   March 26, 2016 at 2:18 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 26 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law strict new provisions governing women's health clinics that perform abortions, similar to a law in Texas passed in 2013.

The law requires clinics, including those operated by Planned Parenthood, to have hospital admitting privileges or a transfer agreement. Proponents called the measure a step forward for women's health. Critics assailed the law as unnecessary and meant to curtail the number of clinics that can perform abortions.

Most pregnancies terminated in the first few months are done through medication and rarely require follow-up care or hospital stays.

When the law passed in Texas, 20 health clinics, most located in rural portions of the state, were forced to shut down because they were not close enough to a hospital, or could not work out arrangements with one.

The Florida bill also goes a step further than the Texas bill, ending funding for sexually transmitted disease and cancer screenings for women's health clinics that perform abortions.

Supporters of the bill pointed to state and federal laws that prevent tax dollars from being spent to perform abortions — and argued the money for STD and cancer screenings was tacit financial support for abortion clinics, even if the money was never spent on actual abortions.

The Miami Herald reported the funding cuts would affect six Planned Parenthood clinics across the state.

Planned Parenthood said the bill would restrict basic health care services for thousands of low-income women who rely on public funds to get mammograms and other forms of preventive care.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, assailed the legislation. The group's executive director, Howard Simon, said they are considering filing a lawsuit to stop the legislation.

"Anyone who has lived in Florida during the Rick Scott administration cannot be surprised by his signature on this legislation restricting women's access to health care," Simon said.

The Florida ACLU has already sued to prevent a measure passed last year, which required a mandatory waiting period for women seeking an abortion, from becoming law.

The Texas version of the Florida bill has also faced legal challenges. A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the Texas legislature, but the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A majority of five justices voted to grant a stay of the law's implementation pending the court's ruling. The justices heard those arguments last year and are expected to issue a ruling before the end of their term this summer.

A similar law in Alabama was struck down Friday by a federal district court judge, who ruled it an unconstitutional restriction on women's access to health care.

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