For some time now, we've been following a long series of red-state reproductive Jim Crow laws incrementally making it more and more difficult for women to retain sovereignty over what happens inside their bodies. Each new law seems to get creepier than the last, especially a recent law signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence that not only forces women to undergo unnecessary medical procedures but also effectively bans all abortions after 20-weeks, even in the event of pregnancy-related threats to the lives of women -- and criminalizes doctors who perform abortions knowing the fetus is suffering from a severe physical deformity or disease.
Of course many of the laws being proposed and passed are direct reactions to the series of deceptively edited YouTube videos alleging that Planned Parenthood has been somehow illegally harvesting and selling fetus body parts. As many of us are aware, countless nonpartisan fact-checkers have debunked the claims made in the videos; around a dozen state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing; and the scam-artists responsible for the videos have been indicted in Arizona.
One of the state-level investigations to have exonerated Planned Parenthood took place in Florida at the request of Governor Rick Scott. As vigorously as Scott tried to frame the healthcare clinics, the investigation turned up exactly zero illegal activities. In other words, the Florida investigation, ordered and conducted by an anti-choice administration, concluded that Planned Parenthood hasn't been doing anything that the anti-choice administration claimed that it had been. That means, no, Planned Parenthood isn't selling fetus parts in Florida.
Nevertheless, Rick Scott is poised to sign a new anti-choice bill into law which defunds Planned Parenthoood anyway, in addition to any and all clinics that provide abortion services. Just because.
The new legislation would block Medicaid from covering non-abortion medical services provided by clinics, including Planned Parenthood, that also happen to perform abortions. In other words, Medicaid recipients who require pre- and post-natal healthcare, HIV or cancer related services, as well as all varieties of preventative care, will be out of luck if their medical facility also performs abortions -- even knowing that abortions are performed by different doctors than those covering non-abortion services. So, yes, Florida Republicans are punishing Medicaid recipients, including victims of unrelated diseases, by stripping them of their Medicaid coverage if their doctors happen to be employed by clinics that also perform abortions. The law, by the way, provides an exception for cases of rape, incest or threats to the lives of pregnant women.
Worse, the law would requires doctors at these clinics to enjoy admitting privileges at a local hospital. If those privileges aren't granted, offices providing abortion services would be forced to shut down.
As if the legislation wasn't ridiculously punitive enough, a list was circulated by the bill's co-sponsors of clinics in the state that could continue to provide healthcare, including non-abortion reproductive and family-planning services, in accordance with the new law. The list of "federally qualified health centers," or FQHCs, names foot doctors and, amazingly, prisons as options for women seeking affordable healthcare using Medicaid funds. That's to say very few of the clinics on the list of FQHCs actually provide women's healthcare services. Indeed, 67 clinics on the list are actually elementary and high school nurse's offices.
As if that wasn't enough, the bill also adds new rules for disposing of aborted fetuses, while redefining "trimesters," too.
It goes without saying that these are all ridiculous details in a bill that, bottom line, clearly seeks to circumvent Roe v Wade to effectively block women from having abortions under normal circumstances. What makes the law especially nefarious is that it punishes women who are most in need of financial assistance, including women who have no interest in or need for an abortion. Regarding pregnancies, Florida Republicans are forcing women in poverty to not only pay for reproductive services out of pocket, but also to birth and raise children in the worst of circumstances.
This law is yet another shotgun measure that incurs significant collateral damage. African-American women can expect to be impacted the most; 25 percent of all Medicaid recipients in Florida happen to be black, the 12th largest block of African-American Medicaid recipients nationwide.
So, yes, women are being unconstitutionally punished in deeply personal ways -- even though they, as well as Planned Parenthood, haven't broken any laws and are simply seeking healthcare in conjunction with what's been granted to them by the Supreme Court and the 14th Amendment.
All told, Florida is racking up a series of laws and other actions that are effectively codifying women of all races as second class citizens. In addition to this and other anti-choice laws, such as the 2015 law that subjects women to 24-hour waiting periods before having abortions, Florida has been making sure that women are less likely to change the laws by notoriously purging voter rolls of Democratic-leaning citizens -- in most cases, minority voters.
If you're a well-off white man in Florida, life is good. If you're a poor woman in Florida, your options and especially your constitutional liberties are being taken away, one by one, by the Republican Party.