State lawmakers in Florida passed a bill on Thursday that provides the permanent funding for pregnancy support centers in the state.
The measure, which passed the Senate 21-12 on a party-line vote, will now head to Rep. Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for a signature, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The bill would bind the Department of Health’s contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network for more permanent funding by changing the budget allocation to a state statute instead of an annual provision.
FPCN operates more than 100 pregnancy centers that provide support for unplanned pregnancies. The centers encourage women to carry their baby to term and services are provided at no charge.
At least 90 percent of the state’s funding must be for pregnancy support and wellness services, according to the bill.
When was the program started?
In 2005, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) created the program that runs the Florida Pregnancy Care Network. It has received public funding since 2006, and last year, it received up to $4 million. However, by placing the funding as part of a state statute, as opposed to just a budgetary line item, Republicans hoped to provide some permanency for the plan.
Why did Democrats vote against the bill?
Some Democrat lawmakers argued that it was concerned about supporting the centers that are mostly faith-based and have an anti-abortion stance.
The party also unsuccessfully proposed amendments to the bill that ranged from adding language that would require services to be backed by medical research to adding a competitive bidding process for the contract.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Aaron Bean (R), said the bill’s provisions already covered that language.
What did the Republicans say?
Republicans said the bill would help the centers provide care for women who choose to continue their pregnancies.
“They’re about life, they’re about having that baby,” Bean said before the bill passed. “But they’re also about giving support where none … existed before.”