Op-Ed

Florida lawmakers are funding anti-abortion clinics

Women march in protest of efforts to curtail access to abortion.
Women march in protest of efforts to curtail access to abortion. Getty Images

Wouldn’t you want to know if your taxpayer dollars were being used to lie to women about their health?

That’s exactly what is happening in Florida. Each year, the Florida Legislature funnels taxpayer dollars to “crisis pregnancy centers,” (CPCs). They are anti-abortion organizations posing as comprehensive healthcare clinics. Under the guise of providing reproductive health services and pregnancy-related information, these sham clinics shame women and lie to them to prevent them from accessing the care they want and need. Often camouflaged as healthcare facilities and purposely located near abortion clinics, CPCs try to lure women away from facilities that can actually meet their reproductive healthcare needs.

When a woman enters a CPC for any type of service, she is forced to undergo biased counseling or religious seminars. Often, she hears false claims about fetal development and the health effects and safety of abortion care (in reality, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States). To be clear, CPCs peddle falsehoods that have been repeatedly discredited by extensive scientific research and the country’s most prominent medical associations.

In addition, CPCs use ultrasounds as another way to shame women, steer them away from abortion care and delay their care. During an ultrasound, CPC staff often lie, presenting inaccurate medical information, withholding ultrasound results, providing erroneous readings or even misrepresenting how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.

Women describe being harassed, bullied and given blatantly false information at CPCs. Janessa from the Tampa Bay area had been so ill from her high-risk twin pregnancy that she was hospitalized, unable to work and struggling to make ends meet. Given her compromised health, she decided an abortion was her best option. Hoping to save money on the ultrasound she needed before her appointment, Janessa went to a nearby clinic that advertised free ultrasound services.

Unfortunately, the clinic was an anti-abortion CPC, and instead of providing Janessa with a reliable ultrasound, they shamed her for deciding to have an abortion. Janessa was sure of her decision to obtain abortion care, but she was shaken by her experience at the CPC and intimidated by the staff’s threats to repeatedly contact her against her wishes. In the end, Janessa’s counselors and healthcare providers gave her the support she needed, but there are many similar stories of deception and harassment directed toward women in this state by CPCs.

CPCs are deceptive. They undermine a woman’s right to access abortion care. They undermine the trust at the foundation of the patient-provider relationship by posing as healthcare providers and peddling inaccurate medical information. And they undermine a woman’s dignity by attempting to shame and pressure her and take away her ability to make her own decisions.

Yet none of this has slowed the push by extremists in the Florida Legislature to legitimize and fund CPCs with taxpayer dollars. Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, has introduced HB 41, which would permanently fund CPCs. Her bill intentionally restricts women’s access to the full range of healthcare services by funneling public funds to entities that exclusively “promote and support childbirth,” while cutting out qualified medical providers who offer the full range of reproductive health services, including birth control and safe, legal abortion care.

By sending tax dollars to CPCs, anti-abortion lawmakers in Florida are demonstrating a total disregard for the truth, undermining a woman’s right to make her own informed medical decisions, and denying her the respect and dignity she deserves.

Florida lawmakers need to know that taxpayers are watching. We will not stand idly by as hard-earned tax dollars in the form of public funding go to sham pregnancy clinics that harm women in this state.

Dr. Nicole Fanarjian is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Florida. Sarah Lipton-Lubet is vice president for Reproductive Health and Rights with the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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