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Letter signed by hundreds of Florida health care workers reflects concern over abortion bill

In an open letter, medical professionals said "unjustified regulations of health care, including restrictions on abortion care, are harmful to our patients."
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In an open letter, medical professionals said "unjustified regulations of health care, including restrictions on abortion care, are harmful to our patients."

To date, close to 700 Florida clinicians have signed an open letter opposing the abortion ban, calling it "bad medicine" and "bad policy.”

Tampa OB-GYN and University of South Florida professor Dr. Shelly Holmstrom is one of the signees. She says the bill — which would ban abortion eight weeks earlier than the current standard — would harm patients.

"This 15-week ban, it's nowhere near the threshold of viability during a pregnancy,” she said. “There are many patients of mine and throughout the state of Florida that don't even realize they're pregnant by 15 weeks. A few of my patients have two or three menstrual cycles a year and may not realize until well into the second trimester."

Holmstrom said doctors and patients should be the only ones to make decisions when it comes to reproductive care.

"Regardless of where people fall in the issue, this really should be about not interfering with physicians and providers in caring for their patients and having something legislated that's not evidence based,” she said.

In the letter, health care workers also wrote that there is no medical justification to ban abortion care at 15 weeks of gestation and that the legislation, and others like it, severely limits access to care.

"I have several colleagues that practice in Texas and we know that's one of the most restrictive legislations — the six-week rule — and they are starting to see an increase in very complicated abortions performed outside of medical facilities," Holmstrom said.

The health care workers who signed the letter also said the ban would inflict particular harm on Floridians already facing the most barriers to care, including poor people of color and those living in geographically isolated areas who would have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic — increasing both the cost and the risks associated with pregnancy.

The Florida House of Representatives passed its abortion ban early Thursday just after midnight.

The bill does not allow exceptions for rape or incest. The only exceptions for the procedure would be to save a woman’s life, or if the fetus is considered to have a "fatal fetal abnormality."

The Senate version of the bill,SB 146, still needs to pass one more committee before it goes to the full chamber.

The 15-week restriction is similar to a controversial Mississippi law that's currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Cathy Carter