State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, tells The Florida Independent she will be filing an amendment that would remove the recently added language in Florida’s Medicaid bill that allows Medicaid service providers to opt-out of providing family planning services on “moral or religious grounds.”

“The amendment is very open-ended,” she says. “It is not acceptable.”

The amendment — introduced by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, on behalf of ‘Catholic Services’ — would effectively allow any network Medicaid service provider, religious or otherwise, to choose whether to cover services such as birth control.

Rich says it is unlikely that the provision would be approved on a federal level; she doesn’t believe the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “will approve it.” “It is appalling to me,” Rich says.

Rich also points out that this legislation could possibly put women in the unfortunate position of not being able to choose a provider that does provide family planning services. She explains that providers can close down and leave women with fewer options.

During debate over the amendment last week, Rich warned that there could be “plans that pull out, back out.”

“We had that with HMOs — seven of them in Broward County,” she says. “And you might just end up in a circumstance where you have just one provider. That would mean that people within that area would not have the opportunity to have family planning services.”

Rich is troubled by the Florida legislature’s recent antagonism toward birth control. She noted that women’s rights have seen various setbacks lately — a sentiment shared by other Democrats in the legislature.

Last month, Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said that the Florida legislature was waging a “war against women” and that “we’re going back to the Middle Ages.”

“I think that’s wrong,” Rich says. “I think it is actually the Dark Ages.”

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