Florida’s proposed six-week abortion ban could impact St. Pete’s push to fund access for reproductive healthcare

The bill prohibits municipal funding for out-of-state care.

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click to enlarge Pro-choice activists outside St. Petersburg City Hall on June 26, 2022. - Photo by Chandler Cullota
Photo by Chandler Cullota
Pro-choice activists outside St. Petersburg City Hall on June 26, 2022.
Both of Florida’s six-week abortion ban bills were filed by far-right Republicans in the state legislature; SB 300’s Sen. Erin Grall and HB 7’s Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka. Dubbed “Pregnancy and Parent Support” bills, Amy Weintraub, reproductive rights director with Progress Florida says the language does just the opposite.

“It is not about pregnancy support or parental support,” Weintraub told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “It is a near total abortion ban and that is what it should be called.”

The bill may also affect a push from St. Petersburg officials who want to allocate funds for increased access to “practical services” related to reproductive healthcare.

Far-right Republican and Trump supporter Rep. Webster Barnaby of Deltona filed a six-week abortion ban bill back in 2021, but it failed. A year-and-a-half later, accessing abortion in Florida looks quite different after last summer’s Dobbs decision. Mckenna Kelley with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund or TBAF said neither bill is about providing support.

“The concerns of the legislature are with the unborn or whatever phrase they use,” Kelley told CL. “Yet, there is little to no support for pregnant people, for children, for babies, once they're born. The concern is solely control of pregnant people.”

SB 300 allows for exceptions to the six-week ban up to 15 weeks in cases of rape or incest, with proof. But rape and incest survivors must provide physicians with a copy of a “restraining order, police report, medical record other court order or documentation.”

Kelley says that TBAF estimates 90% of its callers are six weeks along or more when they find out they’re pregnant. And sometimes, the state-required ultrasound before an abortion reveals they are even farther along than they thought.

“Under the proposal, some people will be able to know that they're pregnant early on and be able to seek abortion care if that's what they want,” Weintraub told CL. “But many, many people will not even know they're pregnant until it's too late to get an abortion.”

Grall’s bill also targets abortion care through telehealth and abortion pills sold through the mail. Weintraub called that provision an “overreach.”

“So suddenly the Florida Senate has jurisdiction over the United States Postal Service?” Weintraub told CL. “They can’t dictate what the U.S. Postal Service sends or allows through its system.”

And the bill goes even further, prohibiting the expenditure of any state funds for “a person to travel to another state to receive services that are intended to support an abortion.”

Since December, St. Petersburg city council member Richie Floyd has been trying to get a reproductive rights resolution and city funds for TBAF. Last month, the city’s Health, Energy, Resiliency and Sustainability or HERS committee advanced a proposal for $50,000 in support for practical support to TBAF. Coincidentally, the line item in SB 300 came right after the HERS committee vote. Kelley told CL that the proposed language could impact those funds.

“We're not funded by the state now and I don't know that any of the other Florida funds are either,” Kelley told CL. “But I think we all knew that there were all these possibilities.”

On average, TBAF spends $1,150 per Floridian needing to go outside the state for abortion care. That cost doesn’t include the abortion itself, which can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

According to Planned Parenthood’s nationwide abortion access map, abortion is illegal in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and West Virginia. Florida and Georgia are considered “severely restricted.”

“We are considered an abortion haven right now, because southerners are coming here,” Weintraub told CL. “So this ban will not only have disastrous impacts for Floridians, but for all people in our neighboring states.”

Weintraub notes that providers in northern Florida, and now central Florida are seeing higher numbers of out-of-state patients since last summer’s Dobbs decision. And Kelley says TBAF got 63% of its calls for support between July 1-Dec. 31, after the Dobbs decision.

The proposed TBAF funding and the reproductive rights resolution are slated to go before a full council for a vote on March 23.
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