Proposed Abortion Rule Draws Criticism

Feb 21, 2017

Opponents of a controversial 2016 abortion law have blasted a proposed rule that the state contends would clarify a key issue in a pending federal lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in December challenged the law on behalf of plaintiffs including clergy members. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle heard arguments last month in the lawsuit, with a major issue focusing on a requirement that people or groups that provide information about abortions have to register with the state and pay a $200 fee.

The plaintiffs argue the law violates First Amendment rights. The state Agency for Health Care Administration this month filed in federal court a proposed rule that it says would clarify the registration issue. The proposed rule says registration would only be required for people or groups "who are paid for the particular purpose of providing advice or assistance to persons in obtaining abortions or in pursuing alternatives to abortion."

But attorneys for the plaintiffs fired back in a filing last week saying the rule seeks to "transmogrify" a section of state law "into something it is not" and should be rejected. That, in turn, drew a reply Friday from Attorney General Pam Bondi's office, which said the Agency for Health Care Administration's interpretation would clarify that the abortion law is "viewpoint neutral."