Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

Romano: Disingenuous abortion bills pose threat to women's health

When it came to outrage, the buffoonish abortion bill won easily.

Legislation that would effectively ban abortions in Florida, passed by a state House committee this week, got the big headlines and incredulous gasps from national websites.

Never mind that the bill is basically a joke since it has little chance of making it all the way through the Legislature, and even less chance of surviving a legal challenge.

It was the audacious ambition of the bill that made it so hard to resist.

Yet while that bill threatened to suck all the air out of the room, the reality is there are far more dangerous abortion bills lurking in the wings in Tallahassee.

Two other bills survived House committees in the past week (HB 1411 and HB 233), and one companion bill made it through a Senate committee (SB 1722) on Tuesday.

"It's the third week of the Legislative session, and we've already seen this much action," said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood. "We view these as legitimate threats to women in Florida."

In one respect, I can admire the sweeping bill filed by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, that would turn abortions into felonies in Florida.

His proposal, at least, is straightforward and guileless. Van Zant is strongly opposed to abortion, and his bill does not pretend to be anything other than a direct attack.

It's the other bills that are deceptive. And disingenuous. And cowardly.

These bills are being pushed by their sponsors as a way to ensure health and safety for women in the state. The truth is they would have the exact opposite effect.

Between them, the assorted bills would A) increase regulations on clinics and hold them to the same standards as hospitals, B) require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes and C) cut funding for facilities that perform abortions.

Texas passed similar legislation a few years ago, and the result is far less accessible care for women across that state. The number of clinics dropped from 41 to 18 within two years, according to the Texas Observer. This has led to waiting times of several weeks, which has pushed some abortions into the second trimester. It also has meant women in more rural locations have had to drive hundreds of miles for appointments.

And that's just the impact on abortions.

By cutting funding, and forcing the closure of so many clinics, women also are missing out on cancer screenings, pap smears, wellness visits and contraceptive services.

"That's what we've seen in Texas," Goodhue said, "and that's what they're trying to do in Florida."

And this is supposed to improve women's health?

Abortion is clearly a contentious issue, and both sides are entitled to their arguments and beliefs. There are points I agree with and disagree with in both directions.

But there is absolutely no justification to endanger the health of women in Florida by passing laws that are intellectually dishonest and horribly misleading.

(For the record, bay area legislators who voted in favor of these bills were Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater; Ross Spano, R-Riverview; and Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. Those who voted against were Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Ed Narain, D-Tampa.)

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