Florida reacts to monumental SCOTUS ruling on abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-3 decision knocking down a draconian Texas law limiting women's access to safe abortion has rippled across the country, including Florida.

While abortion rights advocates (and fans of women's healthcare) laud the decision as one of the best things to happen to women's health/autonomy in recent years, they say it's too early to know what exactly the outcome will be in the Sunshine State and other places that have passed similar laws to the one struck down.

While the law is similar to the Texas one, it might not be similar enough.

Back in March, Gov. Rick Scott signed a new Florida abortion law slated to go into effect Friday seemingly intended to target Planned Parenthood and “requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, requires annual licensure inspections for clinics and bans the purchase, sell or transfer of fetal remains. The law upgrades the failure to properly dispose of fetal tissue from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor.”

On June 2, Planned Parenthood reacted by filing lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, and Tallahassee U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle (who famously struck down Florida's same-sex marriage ban in 2014) is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Wednesday, the News Service of Florida reported.

The hearing seeks to block parts of the law Scott signed, namely one preventing state and local governments from doing business with clinics provide or are affiliated with facilities that provide abortions. A section of the law that seeks to prevent state agencies, local governments and Medicaid managed-care plans from contracting with organizations that own, operate or are affiliated with clinics that perform elective abortions. It also requires the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to review at least half of medical records in the state involving cases the abortion.

But that suit doesn't deal with the admitting privileges component.

The Texas law's admitting privileges require a doctor to have them at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where a woman is seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Florida's law doesn't give a specific distance.

But even with the possibility that the decision may not affect Florida, women's health advocates in the state are cheering.

"This decision is certainly historic," said Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. "This is the biggest case since Roe v. Wade in terms of its impact on access to a safe and legal procedure."

The decision also shook the political sphere, where abortion has for decades been one of the most contentious wedge issues out there.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, an outspoken Orlando Democrat who's running for U.S. Senate, slammed his potential Republican rival, the seat's incumbent, a long-vocal critic of the procedure.

“This decision also shows how destructive it would be to allow Marco Rubio to maintain his power to approve future Supreme Court justices," he said in an emailed statement. "[U.S. Senator Marco] Rubio favors restricting abortion access even in cases of rape and incest, and would unravel these vital health protections for women.”

His opponent in the Democratic primary, Jupiter Congressman Patrick Murphy, also sent out a statement heralding the decision while tying it to Rubio.

"This law was designed to make it nearly impossible for women in Texas to access safe and legal abortions," he said. "This dangerous anti-women's health effort was praised by Marco Rubio, who wants to ban abortion access even in cases of rape or incest, punishing women and taking away basic health care rights. We need a Senator who will stand with Florida women and families against continued attacks on women's health care. In the U.S. Senate, I will continue fighting to protect these basic rights,"

NARAL Pro-Choice America's Ilyse Hogue pointed out that, given the current vacancy on the Supreme Court — and the next president's duty to fill any that come up — the decision shows how crucial it is that voters elect a president who will appoint justices that want to protect women's self-determination. And the difference between presumptive nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is dramatic.

“Our next president will likely have at least one Supreme Court nominee and the contrast could not be starker," she said. "Hillary Clinton is a champion for reproductive freedom and empowering women and girls to take our country forward. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is committed to appointing justices who will once again make abortion illegal across the country, which has been instrumental to the support he has received from Republicans up and down the ticket. This is a pivotal moment in our nation's history.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat running for reelection, also said the decision is an example of why voters should choose Clinton.

“Today's Supreme Court decision is yet another reminder for women across the country that in this election, the stakes are high and the choice is clear," she said, also in a written statement. "The next president will likely shape the Supreme Court for generations to come, and Donald Trump has vowed to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and infringe upon women's reproductive rights. Now - more than ever - we must protect the progress we've made and vote for elected officials, like Hillary Clinton, who will fight for a woman's right to choose.” 

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