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Planned Parenthood Responds To Latest Abortion Bill

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Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
Anna Eskamani, Director of Public Policy and Field Operations of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida Eskamani met with supporters Thursday outside the office of Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

A Florida House panel's approval of a bill placing more regulations on abortion clinics led Planned Parenthood activists to Lakeland Thursday, where they spoke out in front of the legislative office of one of the bill sponsors.

Outside the office of state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland,  Anna Eskamani of Planned Parenthood said the requirements in HB 1411 and SB 1722 are “medically unnecessary” and could close health care clinics that now provide abortion services.

"If you were serious about reducing the rates of abortions in the state, you would work with organizations like Planned Parenthood to focus on prevention and access to contraception and sexual health education,” said Eskamani, director of public policy of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. 

The bill, in part, would require clinics that perform abortions after the first trimester to have patient transfer agreements with nearby hospitals, and it would require physicians who perform abortions at the clinics to have admitting privileges at those hospitals as well. It would also would ensure organizations affiliated with abortion clinics couldn't get public funding - groups such as Planned Parenthood.

Abortion clinics that perform only first-trimester abortions would be required to have transfer agreements or their physicians would be required to have admitting privileges, according to the bill's language, said the one of the bill's co-sponsors in the House.

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Credit Florida Channel
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Florida Channel
Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland.

"The bill was written an in effort to protect the health and welfare of Floridians and also to make sure the state of Florida is working effectively out in the field with those clinics that perform abortions across our state,” Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said during a subcommittee meeting earlier this week in Tallahassee.

Eskamani said those kinds of requirements won't improve women's health. Instead, she proposes lawmakers support another bill, the "Healthy Adolescents Act,” (HB 859/SB 1056) that requires public schools to provide more comprehensive sex education.

Burton’s bill also would increase the number of abortion case files the state Agency for Health Care Administration would review each year from a relative handful to 50 percent. According to the bill analysis, more than 72,000 abortions were performed in Florida in 2014.

The bill also would require agencies that counsel women considering abortions to register with the state - unless they are counseling women against having the procedure.

Eskamani said the bills are directly related to sting videos last summer accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue.

"They are politically-motivated attacks based on a smear campaign that has been debunked and the creators have been indicted,” Eskamani said.

Burton said Tuesday at the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meeting that targeting Planned Parenthood is not her motivation.

"This bill is not aimed at any one particular organization,” Burton said.

Last fall, an investigation of Florida's 16 Planned Parenthood clinics found no evidence of fetal tissue sales. 

--Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.