Florida Bill Recognizes Abortions as Health Care

In 2020, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott co-sponsored the “Abortion Is Not Health Care Act,” yet recently, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg proposed new legislation that protects abortion clinics as health care services in COVID-19 liability protections. 

Senate Bill 74 provides greater liability protection to health care providers in lawsuits related to COVID-19. Abortion clinics are included among these health care providers. 

Brandes, the bill’s author, claims that this is not a political statement and that the bill simply regulates clinics under the same statute as other health care centers. 

Despite this new bill recognizing abortion as health care, the GOP is firm in its pro-life stance. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that established parental consent as a requirement prior to a minor having an abortion. 

Abortion clinics could have been included under another bill, SB 72. This proposed legislation would give other businesses additional legal protections from COVID-19-related lawsuits and liabilities; however, abortion clinics were included within the health care service category. 

SB 74 cleared its first Senate committee Feb. 10 and now awaits clearance from the Committee on Health Policy. 

Currently, 34 states have enacted similar legislation to protect businesses and health care providers from COVID-19 liabilities, according to the American Tort Reform Association, an organization that supports such measures. ATRA wrote on its website “the first lawsuits targeting health care providers, employers, retailers and other businesses for COVID-related injuries have been filed.”   

Legislation such as SB 72 and SB 74 aims to protect health care service providers and businesses from COVID-19 liability lawsuits. In Florida, the president of Florida Justice Reform Institute Attorney William Large discovered at least nine lawsuits related to COVID-19. Among the lawsuits, none involved abortion providers. However, this number is not comprehensive, and health care providers could still face a wave of lawsuits. 

SB 74 states that “A health care provider is immune from liability for a COVID-19 related claim if supplies, materials, equipment, or personnel necessary to comply with the applicable government-issued health standards or guidance at issue were not readily available or were not available at a reasonable cost.”

If this legislation becomes law, it will apply retroactively, so companies that are sued prior to its signature into law will not have additional legal protection. 

Opponents of Brandes’ proposal rebut with the fact that the number of documented lawsuits against health care providers is few in numbers, rendering the bill unnecessary. Additionally, they argue that this could shield companies that disregarded people’s safety during a pandemic.  

Ultimately, the impact of this bill exceeds protecting businesses from liabilities; it recognizes abortion clinics as health care clinics – something Republicans have long contended. 

Although the GOP may remain unyielding in its anti-abortion stance, this new legislation, proposed by a member of the GOP, clearly states that abortion clinics are considered health care providers and deserve the same protections as any other clinic or health provider.