In March of 2014, I was 16 years old and scared because there was a chance I was experiencing an unexpected pregnancy.
Every day on my way to school I would pass a Community Pregnancy Center. I did not know much about this facility, except it advertised on the side of its building: “FREE PREGNANCY TESTING.” I thought maybe this was a legitimate health facility that could help me.
I learned quickly this was not a legitimate health care provider — even though the Florida Legislature wants you to think it is. These fake women’s health centers advertise free pregnancy testing and pregnancy-options education, but they oppose abortion and contraception and therefore will not provide comprehensive counseling or referrals. The Florida Legislature has passed House Bill 41, legislation that would permanently send millions in tax dollars to these fake women’s health centers that oppose abortion and judge, shame and intentionally try to trick women. I struggle to understand how a legitimate health care provider could operate like this.
Before a woman at the clinic would give me back my pregnancy-test results she asked me a question: “What is your religious affiliation?” I was shocked, answered the question, reminded her why I was there and asked her for the result of my pregnancy test.
It was negative.
After, she began a lesson on abstinence and shared how I still can be “saved” despite the “mistakes” I have made. She gave me brochures about abstinence, Christianity, adoption and medically inaccurate information about abortion. At the end of it all, she reminded me that she had all of my private information and would be notifying my family of my visit. So much for patient confidentiality.
I oppose HB 41 because I care deeply about women and feel no person should be lied to or feel judged or shamed when accessing health care. When faced with the possibility of an unintended pregnancy, women deserve unbiased, medically accurate information about all of their options. We should not to be judged, shamed and threatened. Our elected officials should not be legitimizing these fake clinics, nor should they be sending them millions in tax dollars, a scheme HB 41 makes permanent in law.
If Gov. Rick Scott cares about being a good steward of our tax dollars and supports deception-free, comprehensive, medically accurate women’s health care, he will by veto HB 41.
ANNIE JAE FILKOWSKI, ST. PETERSBURG
Editor’s note: Filkowski is a student at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, where she majors in political science and law studies.