Floridians for Reproductive Freedom urges more robust Zika response from Gov. Scott

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2016

Contact: Damien Filer / 850-212-1858 / Damien@ProgressFlorida.org 

TALLAHASSEE – Today Floridians for Reproductive Freedom (FRF), a coalition of 51 organizations representing thousands of Floridians including trained health experts, delivered a letter to Gov. Rick Scott requesting “immediate and specific action on the Zika virus outbreak and the growing public health crisis in Florida”.

FRF is urging more transparent collaboration with local communities and partners, increased access to sexual health education, reducing barriers to abortion access and expansion of Medicaid at the state level to ensure that no Floridian is left in the coverage gap.

Gov. Scott has signed several drastic anti-abortion measures into law. This year, the Florida Legislature passed and Gov. Scott signed a measure to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides free and low cost testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and access to birth control. Planned Parenthood has already played an instrumental role in combating Zika in South Florida, and should be seen by the state as a strong partner in Zika prevention and treatment. 

“A pregnant woman facing a Zika diagnosis needs compassion, support, and medical options. And those options must include abortion,” said Kimberly Diaz, Legislative Representative for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. “What she doesn't need are politicians judging her, making decisions for her, or erecting barriers to abortion access.”

Because there is no medication or vaccine for the Zika virus, the best strategy to combat Zika is prevention. In order to adopt a truly comprehensive approach to preventing Zika infections, Florida must incorporate sexual health education and access to a full range of reproductive health services into their public education and prevention efforts. FRF agrees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that women and their partners who do not want to get pregnant now should be advised about the range of effective birth control methods and counseled on the importance of correct and consistent use of these methods. 

FRF also wants more coordinated efforts with local health departments and other public health entities in order to effectively promote available resources and coordinate preventive care efforts, as well as earmarking a portion of any federal funds to expand resources for family planning education and services.

“Unfortunately, under Gov. Scott Florida has not taken any meaningful steps towards educating the public about their sexual health in the midst of this crisis,” said Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director of Progress Florida. “Communities must be educated on the full-range of reproductive health care services that are available to them in order to prevent the spread of Zika.” 

Gov. Scott has repeatedly rejected expansion of the state Medicaid program, which would provide access to quality, affordable health coverage for nearly 600,000 Floridians. But to make matters worse, by refusing to expand Medicaid more than $50 billion in Florida taxpayer dollars have been left on the table – money that Florida needs for this latest health crisis.

“Gov. Scott needs to set aside politics and address the Zika crisis with a comprehensive approach that includes expanding health coverage through the state Medicaid program,” said Hannah Willard, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida.

“Floridians for Reproductive Freedom stands at the ready and looks forward to assisting Gov. Scott and our health departments to address this crisis, educate the public on resources available to them, and prevent the Zika outbreak from continuing to spread,” added Willard.

Read the letter delivered to Gov. Scott here.

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