In the midst of the abortion fight, DeSantis vetoes birth control funding—again

When Gov. Ron DeSantis cut $3 billion from the state budget on Thursday, an unfortunate point struck him as familiar: Just like last year, DeSantis vetoed $2 million intended to help low-income people gain access too long-acting contraception.

It was again Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican, to include this it in the $110 billion budget. Unlike last year, however, this veto landed in the middle of a national one Accounting for reproductive rights. It came weeks after a leaked Supreme Court opinion suggested that the Roe v. Wade will be lifted, and less than a month before Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban goes into effect.

Stephanie Fraim, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida — which includes the organization’s clinics in the Tampa Bay area — questioned the rationale for the veto.

Related: DeSantis trims GOP priorities as it approves $110 billion budget

“The funding of this worthwhile investment in the health of our communities enjoys rare bipartisan support,” she said in an emailed statement. “And thanks to President Biden, the Legislature was able to pass a balanced budget with lots of money in reserves. Taking away health care from vulnerable people is just another example of his ongoing cruelty to Floridians.”

DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw did not respond to requests for comment.

Long-acting reversible contraception, the type of contraception that would have funded Simpson’s proposal, refers to contraceptives such as intrauterine devices, commonly known as IUDs, which can work for a decade, and the Depo-Provera syringe, which lasts about three months.

Researchers have found that long-acting reversible contraceptives are far more effective than other birth control methods such as the pill. According to a 2020 report released by the Florida Department of Health, women in Florida are using IUDs and hormonal implants, and overall birth control, at lower rates than the national average.

Simpson’s rep said Friday he had no comment. The senator, whose district includes parts of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, has previously said his drive for contraceptive access and his anti-abortion stance go hand-in-hand.

“When you consider that we are pro-life, how many lives can be saved by (long-acting reversible contraception) and remember that it is the people who cannot afford what this money is for” , he told Florida Politics in March. “And about half of our population may not (can’t) afford these devices and so I think this is certainly a tool that should be in the toolbox.”

Low-income people who want to access birth control may not have insurance and otherwise may not be able to afford it, said Linsey Grove, a public health physician at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and president of the region’s League of Women Voters St. Petersburg. Even if they get free or cheap contraceptives, they could incur unexpected costs like exam fees if a doctor wants to do an ultrasound before inserting an IUD.

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The help is necessary, Grove said, and she applauded Simpson for pushing it. But access to reproductive health cannot be justified solely on the economic argument that “we want to ensure that low-income women have access to contraception because when they have children it is a burden on the state.”

“It breaks my heart that this is the framework we need to use to get lawmakers to pay attention to reproductive choice,” she said.

That funding failed again shows the true purpose of measures like the 15-week ban, Grove said.

“If these things aren’t supported by people who really want to reduce abortion, then I think the intent behind limiting abortion has nothing to do with women or people with wombs,” she said. “It’s all about control.”

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