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Idiot Lawmakers Think You Should Go to the Dentist to Get an Abortion

Florida just passed a bill to effectively defund Planned Parenthood. Anti-abortion legislators say that women seeking reproductive care can just go to an elementary school or a foot doctor instead, but the Riverview Foot and Ankle Specialists were very...

by Gabby Bess
Mar 23 2016, 6:30pm

Screengrab via YouTube

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers in Florida signed off on anti-abortion bill HB 1411. The bill, which passed in the state senate 25-15, is similar to laws that have passed in Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio that put severe restrictions on reproductive health clinics. Legislation like this, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—or TRAP laws—requires women's health providers to jump through unnecessary and expensive hoops, like gaining "admitting privileges" at nearby hospitals. Politicians who support TRAP laws say that they're making clinics safer, but in the states where these laws have been enacted, nearly all women's health providers have been forced to shut down, leaving women with very few options for reproductive care. In Florida, HB 1411 would effectively defund Planned Parenthood clinics and prohibit them from taking Medicaid.

But Florida politicians say that women who rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable care should be worried. In fact, the bill's co-sponsor, Colleen Burton, offered up a list of alternatives for women seeking birth control, pap smears, and other reproductive services. "We have 52 federally qualified health centers, the counties have health departments, physicians' offices, independent clinics would be eligible if they applied and met the requirements," Burton said, according to the Guardian.

Read More: Looking Back on a Horrendous Year for Abortion Rights

The publication also reports that during the hearing for the bill, advocates for HB 1411 repeatedly insisted that "there are 29 federally funded public health centers for every one Planned Parenthood health center in the state, implying that the defunding of Planned Parenthood would have little impact on patients."

That ratio, however, is based on this list of all of Florida's federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). The majority of the health centers listed, which include middle schools and foot doctors, have nothing to do with reproductive care. We're pretty sure you can't get a breast exam or an IUD at Flamingo Elementary School. But just to be certain, we called up a few of Florida's supposed Planned Parenthood alternatives to see what services they offer:

Dental Care East

Naples, Florida
STD screening: No
Pap smears: No
Clinical breast exams: No
Birth control: No
Abortion: No
HPV vaccinations: No

Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center

North Miami, Florida
STD screening: No
Pap smears: No
Clinical breast exams: No
Birth control: No
Abortion: No
HPV vaccinations: No

Arcadia Family Optometry Center

Arcadia, Florida
STD screening: No
Pap smears: No
Clinical breast exams: No
Birth control: No
Abortion: No
HPV vaccinations: No

Riverview Foot and Ankle Specialists

Bradenton, Florida
STD screening: No
Pap smears: No
Clinical breast exams: No
Birth control: No
Abortion: No
HPV vaccinations: No

Much as women in Florida were shocked to hear their representatives suggest that they go to the dentist for birth control, the dentists and optometrists we called didn't think it made sense to direct our inquiries about reproductive services at them. And they're obviously right—it doesn't! But apparently anti-abortion lawmakers don't actually care whether women have viable options for reproductive care.

According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, there are 126 federally qualified health centers in the state that provide contraceptive services; that's a fraction of the lengthy list of "alternatives" that sponsors of HB 1411 have pointed to. In actuality, the Guardian reports, there are only five federally funded reproductive health clinics per Planned Parenthood. Based on the disastrous outcome of TRAP laws in other states—most notably in Texas, where abortion access and women's health clinics have been limited, causing a 35 percent decline in women using the most effective methods of birth control and an increase in births among low-income women—that's not enough.