TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Opponents of a controversial abortion bill delivered more than 12,000 petitions Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott's office, asking him to veto the measure.
The wide-ranging bill (HB 1411) would increase clinic regulations and bar public funding for organizations associated with abortion clinics, such as Planned Parenthood.
Lawmakers passed the measure during the legislative session that ended last week, and Scott must take action on the bill by March 26, according to information on the governor's office website.
The bill's supporters contend that increased clinic regulations are needed and that tax dollars should not go to organizations that also provide elective abortions.
But critics said the bill was an attempt to limit the ability of women to have abortions and would lead to a costly legal challenge.
"I am worried about the future of women," said Regina Sheridan, a Planned Parenthood volunteer who helped deliver the petitions. "I have heard many stories of women that I have spoken to who lived before Roe v. Wade, and had to live in a world where abortion was not legal. They had friends and family members who died in back-alley abortions."
But Pam Olsen of the International House of Prayer, a supporter of the bill, said she's confident Scott will sign it.
"I fully expect him to sign this bill, for the sake of the women in the state of Florida that they will be protected," Olsen said. "They will have the right to safe health in the state of Florida. Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded, just like many other states have done recently."
In part, the bill would redefine when a first-trimester abortion begins and ends. That definition would align with an effort last year by Scott's administration to sanction five clinics, including three affiliated with Planned Parenthood, on allegations that they performed second-trimester abortions without proper licenses.
The bill also would require the Agency for Health Care Administration to conduct annual inspections of abortion clinics and review at least 50 percent of patient records.
One of the most contentious parts of the bill deals with barring public funds for organizations affiliated with abortion clinics.
While such funds don't go for elective abortions, they can be used for other services provided by the clinics, such as family planning and cancer screening.