Florida lawmakers should not limit women’s access to healthcare


This country has made tremendous progress in helping women lead healthy lives, especially thanks to expanded access to reproductive healthcare. In particular, improved access to a full range of birth-control services has resulted in a 40-year low in teen pregnancy rates. Advances in women’s health have paved the way for women to be a driving force in our economy, and access to reproductive healthcare is directly related to women’s ability to finish school and succeed professionally.

Empowered women empower families. They empower communities, societies and the world. Yet, the new Congress and too many state legislatures continue to launch politically motivated attacks on women and their right to make personal medical decisions.

In Florida, the Legislature has introduced six bills that could have a detrimental impact on a woman’s access to healthcare, suggesting that, as lawmakers, they understand what is best for a patient, better than sound science, best practices and doctors’ recommendations.

Two of these measures could severely restrict a woman’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion in Florida by requiring physicians that provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Abortion is already one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, and providers have plans in place in the extremely rare case of an emergency. Leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose admitting privileges because they pose a risk to women’s health by reducing timely access to the procedure.

The Florida Legislature has also introduced two dangerous measures that would require a mandatory 24-hour delay before a woman can get an abortion.

We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a carefully considered decision about a pregnancy. Planned Parenthood sees firsthand how important it is for a woman to have accurate information about all her options and to have full support in making her decision. We work every day to make sure women get that. These bills wouldn’t help women — they would block access to safe, legal abortion and make it more difficult for women to get the care they need. The Republican members of the state House Judiciary committee even voted down an amendment to allow the waiting period to be waived in certain cases such as rape, incest or fetal anomaly.

Despite misguided efforts to restrict access, abortion is a legal procedure — and it is largely safe because it is legal. It is subject to rigorous research, constantly evolving best practices and is part of a regular medical practice for many women’s healthcare providers.

Abortion providers adhere to strict medical standards and guidelines that are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Access to abortion makes women safer.

Research has shown that in states where it is restricted, women will choose desperate, dangerous and life-threatening means to end an unwanted pregnancy. This can include self-inflicted trauma, consumption of chemicals, self-medication or enlisting unqualified and untrained practitioners employing unsafe means.

We’re at a critical moment: A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute found that 57 percent of American women of reproductive age now live in a state that is hostile to their health and rights. Now is not the time to go backward. We need to continue advocating for what works: expanding access to contraception and sex education — and protecting access to safe, legal abortion.

Lillian Tamayo is the president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast.