State Rep. Chuck Chestnut, D-Gainesville (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

During debate before the House’s final approval of the appropriations bill, state Rep. Chuck Chestnut, D-Gainesville, introduced an amendment that would remove the $2 million crisis pregnancy centers are slated to receive.

The House budget currently includes $2 million, yet again, for the state’s crisis pregnancy center network.

Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, are mostly religious centers whose intention is to dissuade women from having abortions. Some Florida centers have been found to distribute inaccurate information about abortion to women seeking help.

These centers have not lost a dime of state funding in the past six years, while other health services have suffered deep cuts. Last October, the Department of Health suggested cutting some state funding to the CPCs during a committee meeting before the legislative session started. However, lawmakers have maintained funding for the centers.

Chestnut introduced an amendment (.pdf) on the House floor today that would have “eliminate[d] funding for the Crisis Counseling Program within the Department of Health and trasfers the funding to the Family Planning Program.”

Chestnut’s amendment failed.

In response to the proposal, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed an amendment (.pdf) to his amendment that:

Restores $1,000,000 in General Revenue funding for the Crisis Counseling Program and reduces $1,000,000 in General Revenue funding from Family Planning Services within the Department of Health to restore funding levels to the original House proposal. Transfers $200,000 in General Revenue funding from Family Planning Services to Grants and Aids-Contracted Services to provide grants to organizations to oppose health care mandates that violate religious freedom and conscience protection.

Currently some religious groups are claiming a recent decision by the federal government requiring insurance companies to cover contraception is an affront to religious freedom. The federal government included an exemption for religious employers.

Plakon’s amendment says:

From the funds in Specific Appropriation 477, $200,000 from the General Revenue Fund shall be made available as grants to be used as legal fees for organizations that oppose coercive mandates in private health plans believed to violate religious freedom and conscience protection relation to abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The Department of Health shall establish an application and approval process for the allocation of these funds to specific entities.

Proponents of the mandate have pointed out that the no insurer is required to cover abortion-inducing drugs. In a conference call with several members of the U.S. House, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., explained that “drugs that are intended to induce abortions are not included” in the mandate. She said the mandate was written to reduce unintended pregnancies.

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