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Politics

As Year-Old Laws Take Hold, Abortions Tumble in Florida

May 30, 2012 - 6:00pm

Even as Planned Parenthood unleashes a $1.4 million advertising campaign against Mitt Romney in Florida and a handful of other states, the nation's leading abortion provider is losing business.

From 2008 to 2011, the number of abortions dropped 19 percent in Florida, and that downward trend continues this year.

State legislators take some of the credit for the decrease, citing tougher regulations on abortion clinics.

"Requiring the basics of emergency medical care and tightening requirements on places that are performing surgical procedures is a good and necessary step," said state Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda.

Prior to the legislation, Kreegel, a family-practice physician who is running for Congress, said, "Some of the basics weren't even done. If these kinds of clinics are forced out of business because of substandard practice, that's a good thing."

Last year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring ultrasounds before women can obtain abortions. A similar measure had been vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist the year before.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, Florida laws also stipulate:

  • The parent of a minor must be notified before an abortion is provided.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • Health plans that will be offered in the states health exchange that will be established under the federal health care reform law can only cover abortion in cases when the woman's life is endangered, rape or incest, unless an optional rider is purchased at an additional cost.

Thirty-nine years after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the political pendulum has swung discernibly toward stricter laws governing, or even preventing, abortion.

In 2008, Florida recorded 95,375 abortions. In 2011, that figure fell to 77,166. Nearly midway through this year, 28,023 abortions had been performed. All figures were provided by the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

The number of Florida abortion clinics has also dwindled. There reportedly are now some 70 abortion providers in the state -- nearly 30 percent fewer than in 2005.

In Jacksonville, one of the most abortion-prone regions, two clinics merged in April. Statewide, abortion providers say they are imposing price increases "for goods and services," apparently in an effort to offset the diminished demand.

Still, the total number of abortions is staggering. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 1,216,000 abortions were performed in the United States in 2008. Florida, which accounted for nearly 8 percent of those, registered 27.2 abortions per 1,000 women.

Until the last couple of years, Florida's abortion rate held fairly steady since 1991, when it was listed as 29.6 per 1,000 women

Over the same period, the U.S. rate dropped from 26.3 to 19.6.

Pro-choice advocates decry what they call political meddling in women's ability to terminate pregnancies.

Along with Florida, legislators in 23 other states passed 92 anti-abortion provisions in 2011, shattering the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005, according to Guttmacher.

"These new restrictions included waiting-period requirements, onerous and unnecessary clinic regulations, and cuts to family planning services and providers because of their connection with abortion," said the National Organization for Women.

Blasting Florida's ultrasound requirement, Stacy Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Florida, told Jax 4 TV, "Legislators shouldn't be practicing medicine. Unfortunately, this puts a huge burden on women and will increase the cost of a legal procedure in Florida."

But bad press has begun to take its toll. Recent videos have shown clinic workers offering to perform "sex-selective" abortions -- a latter-day exercise of the noxious tradition that values boys over girls in some third-world cultures.

A surreptitious video produced by James O'Keefe's conservative group, Project Veritas, even revealed a clinic worker agreeing to accept a contribution from a donor on condition that the money would go only toward aborting minority babies.

Lila Rose, the 23-year-old leader of Live Action, says abortion opponents have "taken up a much more aggressive strategy" in pushing their pro-life cause. Her group, which has produced a series of embarrassing and/or incriminating undercover videos at abortion clinics, denounces the sex-selection procedure as "gendercide."

Rose, a recent UCLA graduate, has converted formerly staunch pro-choicers to her side.

Former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson debunks the group's claim that it is simply "a comprehensive health-care provider."

For so long PP has touted that they are a provider of mammogram services. This is just one of the lies that PP uses to draw people into their clinics.

"PP is not able to provide quality services on their own, so they are forced to lie to the public about services they dont provide -- and mammograms are just one of those services," Johnson said.

Rose and Johnson have called on Congress to revoke all taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood. In the last reported year, PP received $363 million in federal money -- though it is specifically barred under the Hyde Amendment from expending any of those funds on abortions.

But as the number of abortions declines, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are losing a significant source of nongovernmental income. Charging between $300 and $700 per procedure, clinics rely on abortion as a profit center.

Along with their deteriorating financial picture, abortionists appear to be losing political ground as well. The Democrats' claim of a Republican "war on women" hasn't polled well. The GOP presidential nominee has gained among women voters since that so-called "war" was declared.

Last month, a Gallup poll revealed that the number of Americans who consider themselves pro-choice has dropped to 41 percent, a record low. Just a year ago, 47 percent of Americans viewed themselves as pro-choice.

Despite the shift in public opinion, the 2012 Florida Legislature did not follow up with any new abortion-curbing laws -- though not for lack of trying.

At least 10 anti-abortion bills were introduced, including Rep. Charles Van Zant's proposal to make it a felony to perform an abortion unless strict criteria were met, and with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Other erstwhile proposals would have outlawed race- and sex-based abortions and prohibited any abortions after 20 weeks.

After the session ended, Judith Selzer, vice president for public policy at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, thanked the legislators, saying, Given that Floridians continue to be plagued by the lagging economy and a growing lack of access to health care, legislators must continue to reject attempts to make it even harder for women to access health care services.

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or (772) 801-5341.

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