Planned Parenthood supporters delivered 12,000 petitions to Gov. Rick Scott's office Thursday, urging him to veto legislation that would create new restrictions on abortion clinics.
The group, led by National Organization for Women's lobbyist Barbara DeVane and Regina Sheridan, a Tallahassee-based activist, asked to meet with the governor about the petitions, but an aide told them he was not in the office.
The petitions in part read, "Instead of attacking women's rights and endangering their health, the legislature should focus on improving women's health."
HB 1411 would create tough new rules for clinics, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges or transfer agreements with nearby hospitals and treating them more similarly to surgical centers under the law. It defines in statute the length of each trimester of a pregnancy, aligning with arguments used by the state in a battle with Planned Parenthood.
The bill would also cut all Medicaid funding for non-abortion services — like cancer screenings or STD tests — at any clinic that performs elective abortions.
Abortion rights activists argue that the combined effect of all these provisions is fewer clinics.
"It's death by a thousand cuts," DeVane said. "They know abortion is legal in this country … so they're shutting them down by no access from these doctors not being given admitting privileges."
That, they say, could lead to more unsafe or self-induced abortions.
But supporters of the legislation argue just the opposite. In part, they want to create higher standards. They also want to ensure that tax dollars from those people who oppose abortion don't indirectly fund the clinics that provide the procedure and other services.
"This bill says we're going to treat abortion clinics the same way that we treat other similarly situated clinics," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, the bill's sponsor, on the Senate floor last week.
The Legislature sent the bill to Scott for his signature or veto last Friday. He has until March 26 to act on it.