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Politicians Play Doctor, ACLU Helps Secure Veto

Brandon Hensler,
ACLU of Florida
Courtenay Strickland,
ACLU of Florida
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June 16, 2010

In a last-ditch, 11th-hour move during Florida’s 2010 legislative session, legislators tagged two harmful amendments onto a health care bill (H.B. 1143) without opportunity for public comment, review by any committee of the legislature or expert testimony. The result of the legislation would have been devastating to women in Florida, drastically undermining access to reproductive health care and dictating what types of health insurance coverage private employers may offer their employees.

Had the bill passed, legislators would have placed themselves in the exam room between women and their physicians. It would have required doctors to perform an ultrasound before providing an abortion even in the first trimester. And it would have required the woman to view the images (unless she signs a form to opt out of viewing them) and — regardless — would have required her to hear a description of the images.

Going far beyond recent federal health insurance reforms, the legislation would also have precluded a person or company that receives a subsidy from buying a comprehensive policy that covers abortion in the exchange. It would have allowed government to dictate to businesses that receive tax credits what types of health insurance coverage they can provide to their employees. As a result, millions of Floridians would have lost the coverage that they currently have through the private market.

In a coordinated effort, the ACLU and 35 partner organizations — representing more than 1 million Floridians — sent Gov. Charlie Crist a letter urging him to veto H.B. 1143. The letter was part of a collaborative effort by a broad spectrum of organizations to alert Floridians about the realities of this anti-women’s rights legislation.

Over 10,000 ACLU members heard our plea for help, emailing and calling Gov. Crist to veto the Florida Legislature’s attempt to play doctor. Gov. Crist responded by vetoing H.B. 1143 (PDF), a major victory for all Floridians. Along with our allies such as Planned Parenthood and Progress Florida, we sent a clear message to legislators: write good legislation, not prescriptions.

Your dedication and overwhelming response no doubt led to this success. We applaud your efforts to stop this damaging legislation and commend Gov. Crist’s resolve to veto the bill. This veto is a victory for women’s rights, reproductive rights, health care, privacy and personal freedom.

This veto keeps government from intruding into the most personal, private decisions that individuals face.

Thank you for your commitment to civil liberties and women’s healthcare. This is your victory!

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