On Friday May 4th, the Florida Legislature ended its 60 day session.  It was a very successful session for reproductive health and rights.

We kept at bay bills that would have been extremely damaging to women’s health, and also moved forward our own proactive prevention agenda.  Below is a recap of the bills that would have affected reproductive health care in Florida.  Our success was due, in large part, to the 150 activists who traveled to Tallahassee for our annual Lobby Day, and also to all of our activists who took the time to call their legislator on some of these critical issues!  Florida NPR reported that over 2,800 calls went into Senators’ offices against the Parental Notification bill alone!  Thank you!  We couldn’t have done it without you! 

The Good…..  SB 1156 by Rich /HB 1191 by Roberson – The Prevention First Act  This is the second year that the Prevention First Act was introduced in the Florida legislature.  It called on the Department of Health to make information on family planning services more accessible, required that emergency contraception be made available to all rape and incest survivors in emergency rooms, and required Florida schools to teach a comprehensive sex education curriculum.    The bill passed easily out of one Senate committee with bipartisan support — but without the section on sex education.  Although the bill didn’t progress beyond this point, it was well received by the legislators and we look forward to introducing it again next year. (Unfortunately, no action on the bill was taken in the House). 

SB 162 by Geller / HB 663 by Randolph – The Parents’ Right to Know Act   This legislation would have required schools that teach abstinence-only education or receive abstinence-only funding to inform parents what information their children are not receiving in the classroom, such a medically-accurate information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections.  This bill was referred to several committees in the House and was passed unanimously by the Senate Health Policy Committee.   The bill never came up for a full House or Senate vote.  FAPPA will revisit the bill and determine how to proceed for the 2008 session.  

SB 86 by Fasano /HB  561 by Homan – HPV Vaccine Bill  A bill was introduced by Senator Fasano and Representative Homan that would have required the state to recommend, though not require, vaccinating middle school girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which linked to cervical cancer, as well as distribute information about HPV to parents or guardians. This bill successfully passed a hard fight through one committee in both the Senate and House, but then died in committee. 

The Bad…..  SB 1602 by Storms /HB 1497 by Traviesa– Restrictions on Reproductive Health Care  What began as a bad bill that would have made it more difficult for minors to secure an abortion if they did not wish to notify their parents became an outright assault on both adult and young women’s access to reproductive health care.  The original bill tried to increase the obstacles young women would face if seeking a judicial bypass of the parental notification law.  The Florida House of Representatives added several dangerous amendments to the bill that would also have required all women (including adults) to wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion as well as receive and be offered to view an ultrasound so that they could consider the full effects of their decision. This was a clear attempt to intimidate women who have already made a very difficult and personal medical decision and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.  We are thrilled to report that this bill died on the last day of session and did not become law. 

SB 2546 by Storms/HB 1425 by Baxley- Child Abuse Reporting  This bill would have criminalized sex and scared young women out of seeking health care.  It would have required health care practitioners who provide abortions, personnel of abortion clinics and others to report pregnancies of girls under 16 years of age to law enforcement agencies. It also would have required health care practitioners who perform abortions on girls under 16 years of age to collect and preserve specified DNA samples from the teen and fetus, as well as forward them to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  This bill was defeated in committee in the Senate. 

SB 234 by Posey/ HB 71 by Poppell-Unborn Victims of Violence Act  This piece of legislation was another step by the opposition to grant legal person hood to a fetus and is an attempt to ultimately undermine Roe vs. Wade, piece by piece. Under this pieces of legislation, if a woman is injured or killed by another and the resulting act leads to the death of her fetus, then the perpetrator of the crime could be charged with homicide. This would have also changed the words "viable fetus" to "unborn child” in an attempt to establish fetal person hood.  This bill died on the last day of session. 

Planned Parenthood Lobby Day   On March 19-21st, the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates (FAPPA) and it’s eight affiliate held its annual Lobby Days in Tallahassee.  Over 150 activists from around the state attended the event which included advocacy training and legislative visits. Supporters from each of Florida’s Planned Parenthood Affiliates, the majority under 30, urged their legislators to co-sponsor the Prevention First Act, Florida Planned Parenthood’s PRO-Active legislation to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion.  One of the highlights of this year’s event was a press conference on the steps of the Historic Capitol featuring Senator Nan Rich and Representative Yolly Roberson, sponsors of Florida’s Prevention First Act.  The enthusiasm of our Planned Parenthood supporters was overwhelming!