State to promote alternatives to abortion

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 28, 2005 at 10:45 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - The state would work with nonprofit organizations to try to convince women with unwanted pregnancies not to have abortions under a proposal Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings announced Monday.
Pregnant women would be able to call a state hot line and immediately be referred to a nonprofit organization that would advise them on choices they have other than abortion. The state would provide the groups with grants to counsel the women.
"It's all about making sure that there are services there in the community to help women who feel they don't have a choice," Jennings said. "We want them to know that they do have a choice."
She announced plans for the program during an event at Women's Help Center in Jacksonville and later at a Miami pregnancy center. Several Republican law- makers joined her at each stop.
Gov. Jeb Bush included $4 million in his budget proposal to start the program, which would be overseen by his office. A contractor would be hired to coordinate with nonprofit providers, which could include religious organizations, to provide services. The proposal would have to survive the Legislature's budget process.
Women would be told about abortion alternatives, including adoption, and about programs to help them if they choose to keep the child.
"The support is needed just as much in the next year as it is in the prenatal time, to help them work through job issues, making sure they have everything they need for the baby, counseling for how they work through the postpartum months, all of that is as important as the pre-delivery time," Jennings said.
There were 92,000 abortions performed in Florida last year, compared to 217,000 births, according to the governor's office.
"We want to make sure that no woman feels there is no alternative, that she doesn't have a place to go, that there's not someone who will help her," she said.
Planned Parenthood of Florida expressed concerns women seeking counseling may get biased advice.
"The state is funding organizations that are charted for the sole purposes to provide biased direct counseling to women," said Stephanie Grutman, who would rather see the state spend money on helping the poor with prenatal care or on educating women how to avoid pregnancy. "The state has made no commitment to making the need for abortion more rare by providing resources for women to avoid unwanted pregnancies."
State Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said he is not opposed to the idea of counseling pregnant women as long as it is done responsibly and without "browbeating."
But he said the state should focus more on teaching teenagers about abstinence and birth control.
"The best way to address that is not to wait until somebody's pregnant, but to counsel before a young women gets pregnant . . . We need to let young people know that an unwanted pregnancy is a very difficult place to be and they should try to avoid it," he said.

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