Florida legislators are moving forward with a bill this week that would protect women by holding abortion clinics accountable to higher health and safety standards.
The state House Health Innovation Subcommittee approve House Bill 233 in a 9-4 vote Tuesday, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it, the Miami Herald reports. The bill would protect Florida women by requiring that abortion clinics meet similar licensing standards to surgical centers, according to the report.
Surgical centers in Florida have more stringent building code requirements and also must meet certain staffing, equipment and other medical standards that go beyond what is currently required at abortion clinics.
“The whole bill itself is really to add extra levels of protection for those who seek health care in an abortion clinic. If a woman goes there, they need to know their safety is paramount,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, in presenting the bill on behalf of its sponsor, Miami GOP Rep. Carlos Trujillo, who was absent as he awaited the delivery of his fourth child.
The building code requirements would be especially onerous, said Kimberly Diaz with the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Inc.
“That would close over half of our health centers,” Diaz said, adding that the meeting the standards “would cost thousands of dollars in renovations.”
However, while it is not spelled out in the bill language, Diaz said that existing structures are grandfathered in any time new building codes are adopted, and existing abortion clinics would have to meet the requirements only if they do extensive renovations, construct a new facility or switch locations.
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… Republicans were joined in supporting the bill by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Florida Right to Life and other anti-abortion groups.
“While I happen to be pro-life, this bill has nothing to do with pro-life or pro-choice,” said Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach. “This bill simply makes it so that we have the safest standards for women that choose procedures.”
Two Southwest Florida lawmakers voted in favor of the legislation, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda.
“I think women deserve the same level of care and protection as a patient undergoing an outpatient procedure at an ambulatory surgical center,” Steube said.
Along with Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other pro-abortion groups are fighting against the bill, according to the report.
The bill has several hurdles to pass before becoming law. It must be approved by two more state House committees before coming to the full body for a vote, according to the report. There currently is not a Senate version of the bill.
Abortion advocates also vaguely warned that they may file a lawsuit if the bill becomes law. A Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida spokeswoman told the news outlet that “Texas paints a grim picture” of what will happen if Florida adopts similar legislation, referring to Texas legislation currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court announced in November that it will hear a lawsuit bought by abortion businesses against a pro-life Texas law responsible for closing abortion clinics that could not guarantee they could protect the health of Texas women. The law has been credited with saving the lives of more than 10,000 unborn children. The court plans to hear arguments on the ruling in March, and a ruling is expected by the end of June.
States have been passing more abortion clinic regulations in the past few years after a horrific Pennsylvania abortion case revealed that many abortion clinics were not being held to basic health and safety standards. Several women died in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic, dubbed a “house of horrors,” due to shoddy care. After investigators raided Gosnell’s clinic, they discovered that the state had not inspected the facility in 17 years, according to the Gosnell grand jury report.
One of many complaints abortion supporters have against clinic regulations is a requirement for wider doors and hallways than clinics apparently usually have. But the Gosnell case revealed the importance of these building requirements. One woman, Karnamaya Mongar, died after a botched abortion, in part, because paramedics had a difficult time moving through the facility’s narrow hallways, according to the grand jury report. Gosnell later was convicted in her death, as well as the deaths of three newborn babies.