What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
Republicans in Florida use phrases like "safety of women's health" and "protecting life" as a hammer when pounding anti-abortion bills through the Legislature, as does Rick Scott as he happily signs them into law. But you'd have to be living under a rock to know that these laws and the women and children they hurt are nothing more than political footballs used to keep their anti-abortion zealots at bay.
The latest anti-abortion law signed last week adds a new layer of hypocrisy to the "cause" of protecting life, and it adds yet another danger for pregnant women and their babies:
Florida is also among the states at greatest risk from the virus, which is carried by a species of mosquito endemic to the Gulf Coast. It's also a major travel hub for the Caribbean and South American, where the virus has already broken out. Recommended travel restrictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have extended ever northward as the temperatures have warmed. This month, the agency warned against pregnant women going to Cuba, just 90 miles south of the Florida Keys.
The obvious risk involving the state's restrictive anti-abortion laws is making it harder for women to get an abortion when they know or suspect they've been exposed to the virus, and the life of babies who will be born with defects as a result. But the laws go even further now as they also block the very research needed to combat Zika:
Scientists say such laws in states like Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Indiana — along with an escalating probe of fetal tissue research by House Republicans — are becoming roadblocks to the research needed to combat Zika. But the reaction has been muted because scientists fear the wrath of anti-abortion activists, even though many say the research is urgent to find the answers that could save children from birth defects or death.
“Basically the only insights we’ve had so far on Zika is with patients who have either lost a pregnancy or had miscarriages,” said Patrick Ramsey, an obstetrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “This is a situation where the vaccine is going to have to protect the mom and protect the baby. Fetal tissue is going to be needed to look at the effects.”
Fetal tissue research was the target of the anti-abortion fanatics who deceptively edited vides from Planned Parenthood to make it falsely appear that PP was "selling baby parts" last summer, and even though the videos were proved to be false and the group was charged with a crime as the result of making them, Republicans have continued to pretend they're valid in order to enact laws like this one. And despite the fact that PP in Florida doesn't donate fetal tissue, the latest law signed by Scott last week prohibits the donation of fetal tissue and will hamper efforts in preventive research to combat Zika by cutting off scientists access to fetal tissue used in the research.
Two of the lead sponsors of the latest attack on women and children's health tooled through anti-abortion laws, Rep. Colleen Burton and Sen. Kelli Stargel, both Republicans, have hidden behind empty talking points used against the very women and children they claim they're protecting.
While cutting off many women's access to any health care through Planned Parenthood clinics the law basically defunded, Burton claimed that women could easily get health care elsewhere. To "prove it" she provided a list of other facilities they could turn to. However, the list contained everything from dental offices to elementary schools. Obviously this is a ridiculous argument and Burton had no shame making it.
Burton's argument against allowing a women to donate fetal tissue for research (remember, PP clinics in Florida never offered that option) for things like the Zika virus was equally empty:
“Our concern in Florida is that a woman’s decision to donate [fetal tissue] is made at the same time she is also making a decision to have an abortion, and there was no public good in her needing to make that decision, too,” Burton said.
Remember Burton's claim that there is "no public good" that can come of women being able to make this decision as Zika spreads throughout the state and the country, as it likely will, absent the research she and her fellow Republicans have blocked.
As for Sen. Kelli Stargel, her excuse was this:
"What we did with these clinics is just treat them similar to other surgery centers."
Among the restrictions Stargel says "are similar to other surgery centers" under the new law is the requirement of annual inspection of clinics by health authorities and tightened rules on disposal of aborted fetal tissue.
As Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood put it, "this cruel bill is designed to rip health care away from those most at risk."
Along with blocking basic health care to women, by blocking abortions, the law virtually sentences children born with the Zika virus to a life of pain and suffering. Of course, while Florida has also blocked Medicaid expansion, not to mention access to affordable health care for many, and health care and insurance altogether from those who can't afford it, they have also cut off avenues to any type of safety net, which will leave those mothers and their children without the care they need. Because "pro-life!"
It's a virtual nightmare domino effect scenario, and as Zika spreads throughout the state, not only will we have Rick Scott, Colleen Burton, Kelli Stargel and their Republican colleagues to thank for it, we can also thank those who are not elected officials, nor doctors, but nonetheless are making these life and death for women and children in Florida, like John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Policy Council, who congratulated all involved, who called it a "historic victory."
“We are so grateful to the Republican leadership in the Florida House and Florida Senate for making this happen,” Stemberger said, citing the sponsorship of the legislation by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Colleen Burton, both Republicans from Lakeland. “They collectively did what the governor failed to do, namely, provided leadership on this critical issue and made it happen.”
Or like Ingrid Delgado of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said of the new law
All this from the Republican Party who said they "didn't want to come between you and your doctor" as an excuse to block the Affordable Care Act. Now the party and those you never elected are not only coming between you and your doctor if you're a women seeking an abortion, they're coming between you and the researcher trying to combat the Zika virus even if you're not.
Do you feel safer and more protected yet, Florida?