State Sen. Mike Fasano is under fire from a family planning and women's rights advocacy, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, for supporting a bill that would have required women to have an ultrasound scan before getting an abortion in the first trimester.
In the just completed legislative session, the Senate narrowly defeated the bill in a 20-20 tie.
But Planned Parenthood is sending out mailings anyway, criticizing Fasano and five of his Senate allies on the bill (SB 2400) for "wasting time on a bill that would have done nothing to improve women's health and … prevent unintended pregnancy."
"We're posting it out because we want voters to know how their legislators voted on issues they care about," said Adrienne Kimmell, the group's executive director. "(The senators) are targeted because we have a lot of activists in those districts, and this is also a way for us to get e-mail addresses."
The law currently requires ultrasound scans before abortions in the second and third trimesters. That is what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends, and that should be enough, Kimmell said.
"Our concern is that the bill is interfering with the doctor-patient relationship, and it's politicizing health care," she said. "It's not up to politicians to decide when to have an ultrasound. It should be up to a doctor."
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said the bill would not require women to actually look at the ultrasound scans — just to get them.
"I am pro-life, and always have been," he said. "I oppose abortion. … Nothing in the bill mandates that the woman look at the ultrasound. But just maybe the mom may just look at the ultrasound and decide not to have an abortion."
Fasano also pointed out that the cost for an ultrasound is already included in the price of an abortion. He also said he supports abortions in cases like rape, incest or when a mother's health is at risk. He said he supported a bill — also dead — that Planned Parenthood was pushing that would allow easier access to emergency contraception and treatment of female rape survivors (SB 780).
"And we're very grateful for his vote on that Prevention First Act," Kimmell said. "But these are two different bills."
Fasano said 82 percent of all abortion clinics already require ultrasound scans in the first trimester. Planned Parenthood cast doubt on the statistic.
"We've heard that figure bandied about," Kimmell said. "However, I'm not sure where those numbers are coming from."
Asked for the source of the information, Fasano pointed to John Wilson of the state Department of Health, who supervised the collation of data for the bill. Wilson said one of his staff members contacted 62 licensed abortion clinics in Florida to get the figure. He said 51 required first trimester scans, six did not, and five did not reply.
Fasano is up for re-election this fall. Planned Parenthood said it didn't send its mailings to damage his campaign, but that didn't stop one of Fasano's Democratic opponents from seizing on the issue.
"Specifically about his actions, it's partisan politics as usual," Richard Skandera of Palm Harbor said. "It's a bill meant to be a wedge issue for voters in Florida, and it's not necessary. I hope the senator would respect the right of women to make their own personal choices."
Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813)909-4613.