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Planned Parenthood Challenges New Abortion Law

Planned Parenthood on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a major new Florida abortion law and accused the Legislature of seeking to "punish, harass, and stigmatize the state's abortion providers for their and their patients' exercise of constitutional rights."

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, seeks a ruling that three parts of the law are unconstitutional. Also, it seeks an injunction against those parts of the law, which Gov. Rick Scott signed March 25.

The complaint, in part, targets a section of the law that seeks to prevent state agencies, local governments and Medicaid managed-care plans from contracting with organizations that own, operate or are affiliated with clinics that perform elective abortions.

While government agencies are already barred from funding elective abortions, Planned Parenthood argues that the new law would prevent clinics from receiving money to provide other health services for women, such as pap smears, pregnancy testing and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

The complaint also challenges part of the law that would require the state Agency for Health Care Administration to inspect at least 50 percent of abortion-clinic patient records each year. Planned Parenthood contends the requirement violates equal-protection rights because it unjustifiably treats abortion clinics different from other types of health-care facilities.

In addition, the complaint challenges a section of the law that would change the state's definition of trimesters of pregnancy.

That change in definition came after a controversy last year in which the Scott administration alleged that some clinics were performing second-trimester abortions without proper licenses --- an allegation refuted by the clinics, which said the administration tried to use a new definition of trimesters.

The Republican-dominated Legislature approved the law largely along party lines in March. At the time, House sponsor Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said lawmakers had taken steps to try to make sure the measure would meet legal tests.

"Our intent is to put forward a piece of legislation that is constitutionally sound," Burton said. The lawsuit filed Thursday also comes as the Florida Supreme Court considers a challenge to a 2015 law that would require women to wait 24 hours before having abortions.