The Florida Senate Democratic Leader has introduced a pro-choice legislative package to “protect women.”
As the state awaits the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of abortion bans, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, who represents parts of Broward County, has introduced the legislation aimed at safeguarding women’s rights and reproductive freedom.
“Women deserve access to legitimate and trusted reproductive healthcare services, and the freedom to safely receive care without fear of misinformation, harassment, or harm,” said Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. “It’s long past time for Florida to prioritize women’s health, protect the safety of doctors and patients, and ensure that public funds are directed toward accurate and accountable healthcare services.”
SB 256, entitled Pregnancy Support & Wellness Services, focuses on regulating what Democrats call “fake reproductive health clinics” which are otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers. The Democrats said it is exposing deceptive practices in these state-funded anti-abortion facilities that exploit women without accountability.
SB 254, entitled Picketing or Protesting in or Near Health Care Facilities, proposes to make it illegal to protest within 150 feet from a health care facility offering reproductive health care, also prohibiting interference with health care providers or their patients within these facilities.
“Our state claims to be a beacon of freedom, but abortion bans, healthcare restrictions, and the funneling $25 million annually into fake clinics that peddle anti-abortion propaganda infringe upon those principles,” Florida Democratic Senate Leader Book continued. “Until women are free to make their own choices about reproductive health, our state is not truly free.”
Democrats claim crisis pregnancy centers in Florida — the focus of SB 256 – “masquerade as medical facilities and pressure women toward parenting or adoption while actively discouraging contraceptive use and spreading disinformation about abortion, including the disgusting and unverified claim that abortion causes cancer.” Florida Democrats added that shockingly, these medical service providers are not required to be licensed or inspected in Florida, and they enjoy exemption from compliance with HIPAA, the federal patient privacy law.
“In order to ensure the well-being and autonomy of women in vulnerable situations, this bill provides transparency and oversight to the state’s unregulated pregnancy crisis centers, ensuring that women receive medically accurate information and comprehensive support,” said Palm Beach State Representative Kelly Skidmore, who is sponsoring SB 256’s companion in the Florida House.
Last month, Leader Book filed a bill ensuring women will not be criminally prosecuted for receiving wanted abortion care, following comments made by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis claiming only health care providers could be jailed under Florida’s dangerous abortion bans. She has long been a strong voice for women and girls in Florida, arguing on the Senate floor last year about the dangerous consequences of abortion bans for women in her own district who almost died following miscarriages of wanted pregnancies.
A member of the Democratic Party, Book has been the Senate’s minority leader since April 28, 2021. It’s unlikely that Republicans in the legislature would be willing to move this kind of legislation forward, but women’s rights, abortion and other health care issues have been boosting Democrats around the country. Depending on the political pressure ahead of the 2024 elections, this could be Florida Democrats starting to position a statewide platform for upcoming campaigns.