Pro-choice advocates will be in Tallahassee next week to petition Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Health to demand more accountability for how a state-funded network of women’s clinics spends taxpayers’ money – and whether clinic workers peddle religious views.
The network of not-for-profit women’s clinics – known as the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. – receives funding from the state Department of Health under a law that went into effect July 1. The law says that the network provides pregnancy support and wellness services that “promote and encourage childbirth.”
Progress Florida, a progressive public policy advocacy group, calls the clinics “fake women’s health centers” that lure in vulnerable women and girls to shame them into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Amy Weintraub, Progress Florida reproductive rights program director, said the network’s clinic staff have untrained counselors who give advice to women they are not qualified to give; the clinics do not offer birth control methods and the ultrasounds are just for show.
“They’re used for persuasion, not for diagnosis,” she said.
Weintraub said there are more than 190 of the anti-abortion clinics in the state and of those, about 105 are members of the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. which receives millions of dollars in state funding. Weintraub said that because of the July 1 law, the clinics are also now classified as “wellness centers,” which she said is misleading and gives them a level of legitimacy they do not deserve.
“It makes them seem like they’re providing an important health service to the community,” she said.
Advocates for reproductive rights are concerned the governor and the state DOH will fund the clinics without making sure the facilities don’t violate the terms of the contracts. The law says that services provided must be done in a “noncoercive manner and may not include any religious content.”
“If the DOH is certifying or licensing hospitals, mental health centers, addiction centers, etc., that same sort of process needs to be used (for these clinics),” Weintraub said. “And since these are new contract requirements, the public deserves to know how they are ensuring these requirements are being met by the fake clinic network.”
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.