There is a new attack on abortion coming from a Florida Republican. It doesn't limit abortion outright, but like other similar bills pushed around the country that mandated abortions be performed in facilities meeting surgical center requirements, it could limit access. The bill was introduced by Kelli Stargel, a Republican Florida state senator, and it extends the timeframe — or statute of limitations — that doctors can be sued for malpractice for abortions, from two years to 10. It also allows women to sue their abortion providers for mental distress.
Stargel claims that Senate Bill 1140, a companion bill to House Bill 19 filed by Rep. Erin Grall, would protect women. "If you have an abortion when you're a younger girl, you don't know that there's been any damage or that there have been any problems until later down the road,” she told WTSP News. But that's not how many see it.
On Wednesday, protesters, with the support of Planned Parenthood, headed to Stargel's office to explain how the new bill could limit access to the procedure. P.J. McClelland, a Florida resident who scheduled a meeting with Stargel to talk about the bill, explained to The Ledger how she saw S.B. 1140:
That is it, in a nutshell. Doctors are at risk of being sued for 10 years with abortions — as opposed to the standard two in Florida. Dr. Suzie Prabhakaran, a doctor who provides abortions at Planned Parenthood, told WTSP News that the main concern is access, because not only will it intimidate doctors who are afraid of being sued, but it will also raise their malpractice insurance, too.
"If your physician doesn't feel comfortable performing abortions because of this change in statute, that's a really tragic outcome for women," she told the news channel.
Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida has officially denounced the bill, too. "HB 19 is a blatant attempt to intimidate and shutter safe and law-abiding abortion providers," Anna V. Eskamani, the group's spokesperson told The News Chief via email. "This bill is designed to make the legal landscape too risky for doctors to do their job by increasing their exposure to frivolous lawsuits and the expense of defending each one."
The protesters in the end weren't able to enter Stargel's office — despite the fact that McClelland had an appointment. After listening to a few of the protesters speak, one of the senator's aides closed and locked the door. Stargel said that she watched the protest in its entirety on Facebook Live.
The bill still has a ways to go before passing. It hasn't even moved through any committees yet. Make sure it stays that way by telling Stargel's office — and your local Florida senator and rep that you're against this kind of legislation.