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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Anti­abortion group attacks Gov. Rick Scott on Planned Parenthood

John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council calls out Gov. Rick Scott for not fulfilling his pro-life promises.

Michael Auslen | Times

John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council calls out Gov. Rick Scott for not fulfilling his pro-life promises.



A conservative group that supported Gov. Rick Scott in his 2014 reelection bid is now going after the governor for not taking a hard enough stand against Planned Parenthood.

The Florida Family Policy Council is demanding that Scott end Florida’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood and intervene to stop family planning programs in Broward and Collier counties that use federal grants to partner with Planned Parenthood.

“We’re asking him to lead,” John Stemberger, president and general counsel for the Florida Family Policy Council, said Thursday. “And we’re asking him to lead on an issue other than just jobs.”

Stemberger sent a letter dated Sept. 22 to Scott’s office.

Now, the Florida Family Policy Council is launching a public campaign. Stemberger said he wants to mobilize anti­abortion voters who supported Scott primarily because of his stance on abortion. He called this a “new litmus test” for which politicians can truly consider themselves pro-life, as Scott does.

In a statement, Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said Stemberger's attack relies on bad information and said that without Planned Parenthood, health care access would decline in Florida.

"Planned Parenthood, even in the face of these ongoing politically motivated attacks, remains a trusted and vital health care provider in Florida where a third of our counties do not have an OB/GYN provider," Goodhue said. "Leading experts released an analysis showing that if Planned Parenthood were defunded, other health care providers would be unable to absorb many of the patients affected — leaving people without any access to care."

The governor has taken a firm position in opposition to Planned Parenthood in recent months after videos were first posted online that appear to show staff with the organization discussing fetal tissue and organ donation. Planned Parenthood insists context was edited out of the videos and that none of its Florida clinics have tissue donation programs.

In August, Scott ordered an investigation of every Planned Parenthood in Florida, which did not find evidence of a fetal organ donation program. However, the Agency for Health Care Administration issued citations against three clinics alleging they had broken the law by performing second-trimester abortions that were outside the scope of their licenses. That issue is currently in litigation, as Planned Parenthood insists the abortions were performed in the first trimester of the pregnancy, and AHCA continues to say otherwise.

Through the investigations, Scott’s office has been intimately involved.

But Stemberger says that isn’t enough.

“We believe he has a moral, ethical and now a fiscal obligation to do this,” Stemberger said. “We believe this is what a pro-life governor could do and should do.”

Scott's office did not say whether the governor intends to cancel Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, which are not very big. But the governor released a statement Thursday afternoon repeating his disgust with the Planned Parenthood videos.

"The videos about Planned Parenthood are awful. As someone who is pro-life and a father and a grandfather, I believe we must not tolerate any gross disregard for human life," Scott said in the statement. "We took aggressive, immediate action to investigate Planned Parenthood offices in Florida when the horrific videos were released."

The videos have been widely discredited, particularly because of the way they were edited, and none of them are from the state of Florida.

Stemberger points to allegations of mismanagement and fraud, as well as the recent investigations by AHCA and the videos that have caused a national fervor. But Goodhue calls the recent investigations and other copposition "politically motivated."

“The Florida Family Policy Council is relying on a long list of false accusations against Planned Parenthood to back up their call for Gov. Scott to further restrict Florida women’s access to health care," she said.

An attempt to stop all taxpayer dollars that go to Planned Parenthood nearly derailed the federal budget process, but on Wednesday night, Congress voted to extend the current year’s spending plan into December.

Florida has not paid a direct subsidy to Planned Parenthood since 2001, when funding was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Although Stemberger correctly points out that no state or federal money goes directly to the organization’s abortion services, he says Scott still an obligation to oppose the group in favor of other health organizations.

“We’re not talking about direct taxpayer funding of abortions, let’s be clear about that, but we are talking about funding a corrupt organization that does abortions,” Stemberger said. “We’re not going to say, ‘Look, we no longer fund the extermination of the Jews, but we think the Third Reich has some really good programs for women, so we’re just going to keep their lights on.’”

[Last modified: Thursday, October 1, 2015 12:38pm]


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