ACLU Urges Gov. Crist to Veto HB 1143 and Protect Women's Access to Health Care

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
May 4, 2010 12:00 am

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist urging him to veto HB 1143, a bill containing two anti-abortion amendments that would dramatically impact the health of Florida women.

The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Crist, would undermine women’s rights in Florida by putting government in the physician’s examination room and dictating to private companies what insurance they may provide to their employees.

“This legislation puts lawmakers in the exam room, during the most fragile point in any woman’s life, and takes the medical decision away from her and her doctor,” said Maria Kayanan, ACLU of Florida Associate Legal Director. “Women, in partnership with their physicians, should decide what medical procedures are necessary, not politicians in Tallahassee.”

HB 1143 would put legislators between doctors and patients, dictating what medical procedures should be performed on women, regardless of the judgment of the woman’s doctor. The two last-minute amendments, both subject to spirited and often emotional floor debate, would require physicians, before performing an abortion in the first trimester, to perform an ultrasound.

Not only does the legislation force all women seeking an abortion to pay for and undergo an ultrasound, they must then view it or listen to a medical professional’s description of the fetus before being allowed to have the procedure. The only exemption from the ultrasound is if the woman can prove she was the victim of rape, incest or other crimes.

“Here we go again,” added ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon, “These Tallahassee politicians claim adherence to the concept of limited government. Apparently learning nothing from the disgraceful Terry Schiavo episode, they vote to dictate the practice of medicine and restrict private insurance plans. Can you spell ‘hypocrisy’? Apparently in Florida you don’t need a license to practice medicine, you just need to get elected to the Florida Legislature.”

The bill will also cause many Florida women to lose insurance coverage of abortions. The bill goes far beyond the federal plan by altogether precluding a person or company receiving a subsidy from buying comprehensive coverage in the exchange. Currently, approximately 80% of plans cover abortion.

“This is government trying to dictate to businesses what types of health insurance coverage they can provide to their employees by limiting abortion coverage,” added Simon. “This bill interferes with private health care decisions and puts restrictions on private health insurance.

“Simply put, it’s cruel to involve government in the private health decisions of women, and wrong for government to interfere in the contractual relationship between health insurance providers and private businesses.”

Theoretically, a person could purchase a separate rider to cover the procedure, but there is no indication that those riders will be available to women in Florida.

In addition to the ACLU’s letter to Governor Crist urging a veto, the ACLU today sent an action alert to 18,000 members and supporters in Florida asking them to contact the Governor and urge a veto on HB 1143.

Click here to download a PDF of the ACLU’s letter to Governor Crist:

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