Wasserman Schultz condemns Republicans over anti-Planned Parenthood law
By Anthony Man
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, sought Monday to turn up the political heat on Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans over their efforts to go after Planned Parenthood.
She was joined – at a Planned Parenthood health center – by a Planned Parenthood patient, a Planned Parenthood executive and more than a dozen other political, health and women’s activists. And the rhetoric directed toward Scott and his fellow Republicans was sharp.
“They’re dramatically out of touch with the overwhelming majority of women, certainly, and families,” the Weston congresswoman said. “They don’t really care what the majority of Floridians think. They are bent on ideology being a priority and satisfying their right-wing extreme ideology. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. And they’re willing to jeopardize women’s health care simply to satisfy the extremist, ideological bent in their party.”
Republicans were the broad target. The specific target was a state law cutting off funding for non-abortion services at organizations like Planned Parenthood that also provide abortions. The law governs the state-federal Medicaid program for the poor.
The law also 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.
Wasserman Schultz and the people who appeared with her on Monday targeted the Medicaid provision.
Wasserman Schultz and Laura Goodhue, vice president of public policy for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said the funding cutoff violates federal regulations governing the joint program.
It’s unclear what happens on July 1. The federal agency that oversees Medicaid could challenge the state law or the state could deny reimbursement for care under its law, setting up a challenge. It’s also possible, they said, that the state won’t enforce its law.
If the law goes into effect, Goodhue said, it would have “devastating” effects. “Florida politicians continue to play politics with women’s health for their own political gain,” she said.
In an August Quinnipiac University Poll, Florida voters were split, with 48 percent opposing a cutoff of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and 42 percent approving.
Men were more supportive of a funding cutoff (49 percent) than women (36 percent) Republicans strongly supported a cutoff (67 percent) compared to Democrats (9 percent).
The move to defund Planned Parenthood was taken up by anti-abortion activists last year after undercover video purporting to show bargaining over the potential sale of fetal tissue obtained during abortion received nationwide attention.
Scott was quiet when he signed the legislation into law in March, issuing no statement explaining his decision.
John Stemberger, president of the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council, which opposes abortion, hailed the law.
Stemberger’s organization said money that has been going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers would go to other organizations “for legitimate woman’s health care.”
“This is a historic victory,” Stemberger said when Scott signed the law. When the Legislature considered the measure, state Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, said “It simply says we won't put government dollars to killing babies.”
But Wasserman Schultz said 7,000 women in her Broward/Miami-Dade County congressional district rely on Planned Parenthood and would suffer because of the law.
Diane Mecias, 24, of Davie, said she had a child in high school, and Planned Parenthood provided her with health care. When she became pregnant again at 20, she turned again to the organization.
“When I was alone and my resources were limited, Planned Parenthood was there for me,” she said. “In that moment, it wasn’t about politics, it wasn’t about numbers. It wasn’t about moral judgment. It was about me it was about my health my safety my life. They cared about me.”