The Florida House on Thursday approved what Sabrina Briceno and other abortion rights supporters were disappointed but not surprised to see.
Gov. Ron DeSantis hours later signed into law Senate Bill 300, which bans access to abortion in the state of Florida after six weeks. It was approved by the state Senate on April 3.
“State legislators continue to go against the will of the people,” Briceno said.
Briceno, 21, is vice president of Generation Action at the University of Florida — an on-campus affiliate of Planned Parenthood. She said the goal of the organization was always to promote sex positivity and provide accurate sexual health information, but legislators are continuing to make that a challenge.
“The life and health of women are at risk continuously, especially since getting access to the proper health care is virtually impossible now in the state of Florida,” she said.
Senate Bill 300, a bill sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach), provides exceptions to the six-week ban for up to 15 weeks for victims of rape, incest or if the woman’s life is at serious risk.
“For decades now, Florida has been a nationwide leader in defending the rights of the unborn. SB 300 will make Florida a beacon of hope for those who understand that life is sacred and must be protected,” Grall told the Huffington Post.
A large component of this bill outside of the six-week ban includes a $25 million allocation for funding crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state.
Crisis pregnancy centers are essentially fake clinics, Briceno said. They pose as reproductive healthcare clinics for women but actually aim to dissuade people from getting the adequate healthcare they need.
They are also not staffed with medical providers, so they are not required to follow federal privacy laws like HIPAA, which protects patient confidentiality in medical clinics, she said.
“It took one of the biggest line items in the state budget,” she said. “It’s super dangerous and problematic because now you’re giving all this funding and power to these essentially fake clinics that don’t actually provide medical services.”
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, crisis pregnancy centers employ misleading practices to manipulate women who come into these clinics seeking help.
Reportedly using false data on abortions, purposefully overestimating gestational age to make pregnant women think they are farther along than they are and showing disturbing visuals to manipulate women into choosing pregnancy over other healthcare options are tactics used by the centers, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported.
Pam Stenzel, the client services director at Community Pregnancy Clinics, an organization with crisis pregnancy centers located throughout Florida, said they are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that does not take government funding, nor do they ever plan to.
The Community Pregnancy Clinics’ mission statement is “to save babies from abortion while providing care, compassion and choices for women.”
“We do not perform abortions here, we just provide information,” Stenzel said. “This is critical information for her to know before she makes a choice about what she’s going to do and what options are available to her are determined by that information from that ultrasound.”
She said the clinics primarily offer pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and STI testing. They also offer abortion pill reversal to “give your unborn child a second chance at life.”
Aaron Bos-Lun, 34, is the youth organizing director of Men4Choice, an organization that aims to cultivate male allies to advocate for reproductive freedom.
He said the legislation is going to hurt a lot of people, and it raises even bigger questions, including why the state is giving itself this kind of power to control people’s lives.
Bos-Lun describes the bill increasing the state budget to include crisis pregnancy centers as “insane” — especially considering the centers are volunteer-based and pose as medical providers but in reality spread misinformation.
“At a time when there are so many needs we have in the state, fighting the effects of climate change, gas prices are high, there’s so many things we could do with $25 million,” he said. “Why are we funding fake clinics so that anti-abortion extremists can dress up as doctors and give wrong information to women and people who can get pregnant.”
Abigail Streetman, 22, is vice president of UF’s Turning Point USA, which she said is a nonprofit organization that does not take a stance on abortion.
But Streetman said she was happy when the bill was approved. She said she thinks it will be a good thing for life in Florida and unborn children who have not had a chance to live outside of the womb yet.
“We’re talking about an unborn child, we’re talking about another human being’s body,” she said. “I think if we want to promote liberty and life for everyone, that also includes all babies or fetuses.”
She said that innocent life has the potential for a valuable life, and she’s happy to see that fewer human deaths will occur now as a result.
The Commonwealth Fund found that in states with restrictive abortion access, maternal mortality was 34% higher than in states without restrictions. Infant mortality also increases in states with abortion constraints.
This bill also prohibits state agencies or educational institutions from providing funding to help women travel outside of the state for abortion care, and those who violate the sanctions of this bill can face prosecution for a third-degree felony — which warrants up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Streetman said she thinks the lines are blurred when it comes to federal punishment but thinks that some sort of repercussion should be enacted to prevent women from seeking illegal abortions.
“I do believe a fine is a lesser kind of penalty that could also work to just kind of discourage the use of abortions as birth control because I think that’s what it’s becoming,” she said. “So many women aren’t using it as a last resort, they’re kind of just using it as the first resort now.”
After the overturn of Roe vs. Wade in 2022 — the Supreme Court case that ruled the right to abortion as constitutional — an array of states have started implementing abortion restrictions all across the country.
As of April 2023, abortion has been banned in 13 states, and laws that prohibit access to abortion after a certain amount of weeks have taken effect in several others — including Florida.
“The reason they’re passing these things quickly, they’re eliminating public commentary and all of the normal features of a democracy, is that they want to pass these things quietly,” Bos-Lun said. “Their hope is that you’re not going to find out that this abortion ban has passed until you’re in need of abortion medical services, and it’s too late.”
Lily Kalandjian, 20, is the public relations director for UF Democrats and said the club, in response to the bill, is working on getting people registered to vote so they can have their voices heard.
“We’re kind of ramping up for the 2024 election to hopefully get some Democrats that are pro-choice and kind of advocate for their collective justice,” she said.
With DeSantis’ action, the 15-week abortion restriction was reduced to six.
Briceno said Generation Action is working to provide safe-sex pamphlets, informative pamphlets that explain resources Planned Parenthood offers, menstrual products, Plan B’s, pregnancy tests, condoms and any other product relating to reproductive healthcare.
“We are making the resources that we have at our disposal as accessible as possible for students,” she said. “In a state that is super restrictive now with their reproductive care, there are still organizations that are fighting for them, that are having the resources available to help them out.”