The Florida Legislature has no business attempting to restrict women's access to abortion. A bill that would put regulations for operating abortion centers on par with hospitals and other surgical centers is a solution in search of a problem. Lawmakers' real motivation is to make it more difficult for women to exercise their right to seek an abortion.
Members of the House Health Innovation Subcommittee voted 9-4 on Tuesday to advance HB 233. Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, the bill would require abortion clinics to meet the same licensure standards as hospitals and other licensed facilities. The new standards would include: the appointment of a patient safety officer and committee; hiring a licensed risk manager; and meeting requirements related to staff membership and clinical privileges at a hospital. The Agency for Health Care Administration would give abortion clinics one year to meet the new requirements.
During Tuesday's discussion of the proposal, lawmakers who support the bill spoke of the need for increased safety at abortion clinics. But AHCA officials could not provide statistics regarding deficiencies at abortion clinics in Florida. The lack of data supporting the need for the changes is telling. The proposed legislation is the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to saddle abortion clinics with restrictions that would make it harder for them to stay in business and more difficult for women to terminate their pregnancies.
Florida need only look at Texas to see the dangers of passing such a bill. State lawmakers enacted an omnibus abortion bill in Texas in 2013 that included enhanced regulations similar to the ones being considered in Florida. After the Texas law took effect, 23 of the 41 abortion clinics in the state closed. The number of abortions in the state dropped dramatically, and wait times for an appointment to see an abortion provider have increased to as much as 23 days, according to a report by the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers also suspect that attempts at self-induced abortions are on the rise. This is exactly the opposite of what lawmakers in Texas and Florida say they want to achieve.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Texas law in March. At the very least, Florida should set aside any attempts to pass copycat legislation until the Supreme Court court issues its ruling later this year. The state's last attempt to restrict access to abortion by enacting a 24-hour waiting period was signed into law last year by the governor. But it is suspended while it is being challenged in court.
Abortion clinics in Florida are already adequately regulated. In the absence of data that provide evidence of a problem with the clinics, lawmakers have no reason to pass this unjust legislation. It has nothing to do with keeping women safe.