TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott on Friday signed a law that cuts off state funding for preventive health services to clinics providing abortion and imposes abortion restrictions already being tested before the U.S. Supreme Court.
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 legalizing abortion.
Scott signed 68 new laws and issued statements on some non-controversial bills on Friday but did not comment on the abortion statute.
The bill, which easily passed the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month, has been the target of television advertisements by Planned Parenthood and protests at the Capitol by women urging a veto.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, called the law “a historic victory,” in a statement.
State funding of abortion was already prohibited, but the new law also blocks money for services for low-income women at the clinics.
It also requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital - a type of formal affiliation that can be difficult to obtain - within a “reasonable” distance of clinics.
In addition, the law requires annual inspection of clinics by health authorities and tightened rules on disposal of aborted fetal tissue.
“For Rick Scott to prioritize political pandering over his own constituents’ access to healthcare is more than cynical. It’s shameful,” Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said in a statement.
She predicted HIV rates will “skyrocket” and teenage pregnancies will rise because women will lose access to regular treatment at state-funded clinics.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a similar law in Texas, where several clinics have closed because of new restrictions.
Legislative sponsors in Florida argued that the law was not meant to shutter clinics but protect women with new safety rules.
The law takes effect July 1 but will probably be challenged in court quickly. Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said he was not surprised the governor signed the bill.
“He claims to be for small government, pro-freedom and opposed to putting government in between people and their doctors – except when it comes to Florida’s women,” said Simon.
Another Florida law passed last year, requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion, recently took effect and faces a continued legal challenge.
Reporting by Bill Cotterell in Tallahassee, Florida; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Steve Orlofsky
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