When Gov. Ron DeSantis slashed $3 billion from the state’s budget Thursday, one ill-fated item sounded familiar: Just as he did last year, DeSantis vetoed $2 million meant to help low-income people access long-acting birth control.
It was again Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican, who included it in the $110 billion budget. Unlike last year, though, this veto landed amid a national reckoning on reproductive rights. It came weeks after a leaked Supreme Court opinion suggested the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, and less than a month before Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban goes into effect.
Stephanie Fraim, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida—which includes the organization’s Tampa Bay-area clinics—questioned the rationale for the veto.
“Funding for this sensible investment in the health of our communities enjoys rare bipartisan support,” she said in an emailed statement. “And, thanks to President Biden, the Legislature was able to pass a balanced budget with plenty of money left in reserves. To take away health care from vulnerable people is just another example of his ongoing cruelty to Floridians.”
DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Long-acting reversible contraception, the type of birth control Simpson’s proposal would have funded, refers to contraceptives such as intrauterine devices, which are commonly known as IUDs and can work for a decade, and the Depo-Provera shot, which lasts about three months .
Researchers have found long-acting reversible contraception to be far more effective than other birth control methods, such as pills. Women in Florida use IUDs and hormonal implants, as well as birth control as a whole, at lower rates than the national average, according to a report published in 2020 by the Florida Department of Health.
Simpson’s spokesperson said Friday he didn’t have a comment. The senator, whose district includes part of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, has previously said that his push for contraceptive access and his stance against abortion go hand-in-hand.
“When you consider we are pro-life, how many lives that may be saved by (long-acting reversible contraception), and remember it’s the people that cannot afford it is what this money’s for,” he told Florida Politics in March. “And about half of our population may not (be able to) afford these devices, and so I think that is certainly a tool that should be in the toolbox.”
Low-income people who want to access birth control may not be insured and may otherwise be unable to afford it, said Linsey Grove, who’s a doctor of public health at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and president of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area. Even when they can get birth control for free or cheap, she said, they may face unexpected costs, such as examination fees, if a doctor wants to perform an ultrasound before placing an IUD.
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The aid is necessary, Grove said, and she applauded Simpson for pushing for it. But providing access to reproductive care can’t only be based on the economic argument that “we want to make sure that low income women have access to contraception, because if they have children, it’s a burden on the state.”
“It breaks my heart that this is the framework we have to use to get lawmakers to start paying attention to reproductive choice,” she said.
That the funding failed yet again indicates the true goal of measures such as the 15-week ban, Grove said.
“If those things aren’t being supported by folks that truly want to reduce abortion, then I think the intention behind restricting abortion has nothing to do with women or people with uteruses,” she said. “It has everything to do with control.”