On Thursday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that would cut off state funding to abortion provider Planned Parenthood and increases the safety requirements for abortion clinics. The bill was cheered  by pro-life activists across the country and also brings added importance to a case pending before the United States Supreme Court.

The bill, HB 1411, contains provisions similar to those in the Texas abortion law currently being challenged before the Supreme Court, requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The Florida law also mandates annual inspections for abortion clinics, including a review of at least 50 percent of their records, in order to have their licenses renewed.

Abortion clinics must meet same safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers

As I noted in a previous post for Legal Insurrection on the Texas case, pro-life lawmakers across the country were motivated to take action by the horrific evidence in the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

Laws like Texas’ HB 2 were passed in multiple states after gruesome details came to light in the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. Evidence presented at Gosnell’s trial included shocking descriptions of babies born alive and killed by cutting their spines with surgical scissors, botched procedures, failure to properly summon emergency help when needed, bodies and body parts of aborted babies improperly stored, significant sanitation and safety violations, among other horrors.

When legislators around the country started investigating abortion clinics in their own states, they found a disturbing lack of inspections and safeguards that many feared could lead to future tragedies like Gosnell’s clinic. The 2009 death of a woman undergoing an abortion by Gosnell had not originally been added to his file with the Pennsylvania Department of Health or triggered any investigations.

In the Texas case, the abortion providers argue that they are looking out for women’s health, strangely by arguing that they should not have to meet higher safety standards.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, one of the bill’s sponsors in the Florida Senate, told the Palm Beach Post that the bill’s safety requirements are similar to other standards for outpatient care centers, such as those that perform colonoscopies or liposuction.

“It’s not a bill restricting a woman’s right to choose,” said Stargel. “It’s not a bill stopping abortion. It’s a bill that assures a woman…is getting the same level of care.”

What will SCOTUS do?

As I noted in the discussion of the Texas case, the Supreme Court now only has eight members after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative stalwart and one of the most reliably pro-life members of the Court. Because the safety regulations of Florida’s HB 1411 are so similar to the Texas law — in fact, the Florida legislators supporting the bill said they were inspired by the Texas bill — any decision by the Court about the constitutionality of the Texas law will most certainly have an impact in Florida.

Still, despite Scalia’s absence, all hope is not lost for pro-lifers. A 4-4 tie would result in allowing the Fifth Circuit’s decision to stand, which upheld the Texas law. Additionally, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote, seemed to indicate he was leaning towards remanding the case back to the lower court for more evidence instead of overturning the law:

However, there are signs that the entire matter might end up punted down the road. Kennedy’s questions during oral arguments about how many clinics would be likely to close and whether the remaining clinics would be able to handle the additional capacity touched on some factual issues that are not yet determined. Kennedy suggested that the case could be sent back to the lower court in order for the attorneys on both sides to present evidence on this issue.

Other pro-life victories

In addition to the new safety requirements, HB 1411 also ends Title X family planning service contracts with Planned Parenthood and prohibits the state from entering into Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider that provides elective abortions. In several states that do not provide direct funding to Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider has nonetheless received significant taxpayer funding through Medicaid contracts.

Florida has passed other pro-life legislation in recent years, including shortening the time period in which an abortion would be legal and allowing separate criminal charges to be brought for the death of a fetus at any stage of development when a crime was committed against its mother.

Gov. Scott also signed a bill this year requiring women to wait 24 hours and make a second trip to a clinic before having an abortion. That law was held up by a court order, but the Florida First District Court of Appeals overturned that court order just a few weeks ago. The ACLU has vowed to appeal.

[Featured Image: Fox35 Orlando]

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.