Florida legislature approves controversial abortion restrictions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida legislators on Wednesday approved abortion restrictions that include requirements for physicians similar to a Texas law currently under review by the Supreme Court and prohibited state funding for routine care at abortion clinics.

The measure imposes regulations that could force clinics to close, provider Planned Parenthood said. Supporters argue it aims to protect women’s health, while opponents called it an attack on groups assisting women in terminating pregnancies.

“Let’s get Florida out of the abortion business,” said State Senator Aaron Bean, a Republican from Jacksonville, during a heated debate. “That’s what this bill does.”

The legislation passed largely along party lines in the Florida House and Senate, both controlled by Republicans. Republican Governor Rick Scott did not immediately say if he will sign it.

Florida is among many states adopting new abortion laws as conservatives seek to chip away at the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. Another Florida law passed last year requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion recently took effect.

The newly passed legislation requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a type of formal affiliation that can be difficult to obtain, while tightening rules on disposal of aborted fetal tissue.

Clinics would have to meet the more stringent safety standards of ambulatory surgery centers and also face annual inspections.

The legislation blocks state funding for low-income women receiving routine care, such as sexually transmitted disease screening and birth control, at clinics that perform abortions.

“What we’re doing is pulling the rug out from under women who have enough problems in life,” said State Senator Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat.

The bill is similar to a 2013 Texas law that included admitting privilege requirements for doctors and stringent regulations for clinic buildings. It is under review by the Supreme Court, considering its first major abortion case in years. A ruling is expected by late June.

“Florida would, in one bill, do the damage it took Texas years to inflict on women,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

The high court has temporarily blocked a similar Louisiana law that had closed clinics in the state.

The Florida legislation would not stop anyone from ending a pregnancy, argued state senator Kelli Stargel, a Republican from Lakeland.

“This legislation makes certain that our limited taxpayer dollars are not being used to support organizations that provide elective abortions,” she said.

Editing by Letitia Stein and Matthew Lewis