Women's Health-Related Legislation in Delaware, Florida, Ohio

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Highlights of recent news of state and local actions on women's health-related issues.

Abstinence Education

* Ohio: Gov. Ted Strickland (D) on Saturday approved a $52 billion budget but vetoed a provision in the measure that would have created a fund for abstinence-based sex education programs, the AP/Chillicothe Gazette reports. "Available evidence demonstrates that utilizing an approach that includes abstinence education and vital health information will serve to better protect the health and well-being of our youth," Strickland said (McCarthy, AP/Chillicothe Gazette, 6/30). Strickland in March said he would eliminate the state's federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs from the budget. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Ohio-based abstinence groups have received $23.7 million in federal funds over the past three years. Ohio has spent about $500,000 per year in state funds on abstinence-only education programs and implemented programs through the Governor's Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).

Infant Mortality Among Minorities

* Florida: Gov. Charlie Crist (R) on Monday signed a bill into law that will fund research examining the cause of high infant mortality rates among minorities, the Fort Meyers News-Press reports. According to a legislative staff analysis, Florida's infant mortality rate in 2005 was 12.5 deaths per 1,000 live births among minorities, compared with 5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births among whites (Booth Reed, Fort Meyers News-Press, 7/3). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Betty Reed (D) and Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D), provides a one-time, $1 million grant to be used by researchers to find the cause of the disparity (Mishkin, St. Petersburg Times, 7/3). The grant also will go toward two or more Healthy Start coalitions in areas with a black infant mortality rate nearly double that of whites, according to the News-Press (Fort Meyers News-Press, 7/3). The Florida Department of Health will administer the programs and allocate the funds. Reed said, "With the signing of that bill today, ... I hope I started the process of really taking charge of the disparity" (St. Petersburg Times, 7/3).

Stem Cell Research

* Delaware: The House on Saturday voted 30-7 to reject a bill (SB 5) that would have regulated human embryonic stem cell research in the state, the Wilmington News Journal reports. The bill -- which is sponsored by Sen. Robert Venables (D) and Rep. Deborah Hudson (R) and was approved by the Senate in March -- would have required embryos used for stem cell research to come from in vitro fertilization clinics with the consent of the couple. According to the News Journal, no state funding would be designated for stem cell research, and any publicly funded research would be overseen by members of a state panel comprised of scientists, ethicists and other community members (Allen/Miller, Wilmington News Journal, 7/1). According to the Associated Press, many lawmakers rejected the bill because of concerns that amendments approved Saturday would impose too many restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The original bill would have prohibited the sale of embryos for research, and Hudson on Saturday added an amendment that would have barred the sale of human eggs for research as well. She also added an amendment that removed language from the bill specifically exempting research-oriented somatic cell nuclear transfer. A third amendment introduced by Rep. Bruce Ennis (D) deleted language from the bill stating that any research guidelines or opinions issued by an advisory committee established by the bill would apply only to publicly funded research (Chase, Associated Press, 6/30). Rep. Melanie George Marshall (D), who voted against the amended bill, said she would use a House rule to reissue the bill in January 2008 (Wilmington News Journal, 7/1).

Reprinted with permission from www.kaisernetwork.org/

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