Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman September 18, 2014

Did Rick Scott close 30 women's health care centers'?

Democrats have been counting on a gender gap to win races in 2014, and Democrat Charlie Crist is part of that trend, lobbying hard for the women’s vote in his battle against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Crist has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood PAC (despite his own mixed record on abortion in the past), has vowed to push for equal pay for women and now is attacking Scott’s record on funding rape crisis centers.

Crist has also enlisted endorsements from Democratic women, such as U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. Frankel recently penned a campaign fundraising email attacking Scott that was emailed out by the Crist campaign.

"If Rick Scott wins, the next four years are going to be rough for Floridians," Frankel said in an email on Sept. 12, adding, "Recently he closed 30 women's health care centers across the state."

This claim warranted a thorough check-up from the Truth-O-Meter -- and we quickly diagnosed the heart of the problem in Frankel’s words.

Women’s health care centers

We reached out to both Frankel and the Crist campaign. Neither could provide evidence for closed health care centers.

The Crist campaign admitted the statement was an error. "That should have read ‘He cut funding to 30 rape crisis centers across the state,’ " Crist campaign spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said.

Frankel's spokeswoman Majda Sarkic sent us this response: "The issue here is not about email wording. It is about Rick Scott denying Florida women and more specifically victims of sexual violence the healthcare they need and deserve."

So the statement that Scott closed 30 women’s health centers is completely wrong.

We decided to then look at what happened to funding for rape crisis centers under Scott.

The state funds rape crisis centers through various pots of money. A portion comes from the Rape Crisis Trust Fund, which comes from fines assessed on felony criminal defendants. Since not all of the defendants pay what they owe, advocates have sought an additional stream of dollars from the Legislature. For several years, programs have shared a recurring amount from the Attorney General’s Office and in some years the Legislature and governor approved additional money.

Based on our interviews with women’s advocates and state officials, here is the amount of state dollars that went to rape crisis centers statewide:

Legislative session

Money from state AG (usually from general revenue)

Other general revenue

Trust Fund**

2007-Crist

$400,000

0

$1.5 million

2008-Crist

$400,000*

0

$2 million

2009-Crist

$250,000

0

$2 million

2010-Crist

$250,000

0

$1.8 million

2011-Scott

$250,000

0

$1.8 million

2012-Scott

$500,000

0 after Scott vetoed $1.5 million approved by Legislature

$1.4 million

2013-Scott

$500,000

$2.5 million

$1.3 million

2014-Scott

$500,000

$2.5 million

$1.3 million

 

So why did Scott veto $1.5 million in 2012 but then approve $2.5 million in 2013 and again in 2014?

In 2012, Scott’s veto during Sexual Assault Awareness Month drew some scrutiny. The Huffington Post quoted Scott’s spokesman at the time, Lane Wright. "This new funding of $1.5 million would have been duplicative, since, as a state, we already fund sexual violence programs," Wright said. "There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren’t already being met."

Representatives of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence met with state staff after the veto, said Jennifer Dritt, the nonprofit group’s executive director.

"There were a number of people in the Legislature who spoke with the governor’s office about the need, and in 2013, there it was in his recommended budget," Dritt said. "We were never in any governor’s recommendation for funding until Gov. Scott recommended $2.5 million in 2013."

A spokesman for Scott’s campaign cited a 2013 statement by Dritt praising Scott’s recommendation for $2.5 million. "This appropriation will make a world of difference in the lives of Florida’s citizens, and we’re grateful for his commitment," Dritt said.

The increase in money has allowed some centers to hire additional staff which helped reduce waiting lists and expand services.

For example, the Nancy J. Cotterman center in Broward used the $255,000 in new money over two years to hire a full-time crisis intervention specialist, part-time crisis intervention counselors and expand community outreach including to hospitals.

Dritt said Scott’s veto did not cause any of the 30 rape crisis centers to close in 2012. Two centers have since lost certification and one chose to give it up while one new center was added, bringing the current total to 28.

Our ruling

In a fundraising email sent out by the Crist campaign, Frankel wrote that Scott "closed 30 women’s health care centers around the state." Crist’s campaign said that the email should have said that Scott cut money for rape crisis centers, but even that smaller claim isn’t accurate.

More importantly, the statement that Scott closed 30 health centers is completely wrong.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!  

Our Sources

Charlie Crist campaign, Fundraising email by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, Sept. 12, 2014

Charlie Crist campaign website, Fundraising message by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, Dated Sept. 12, 2014 and accessed Sept. 15, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott, Vetoes, 2012

Florida Council Against Sexual Violence website, "Rape crisis centers address the media on governor’s funding veto"  and "Legislative wrap-up," 2012

Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, "Public policy update," Jan. 31, 2013

Florida Department of Health website, Sexual abuse or violence prevention, Accessed Sept. 15, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott press release, "Florida Families First Budget invests in keeping Florida families and visitors safe," May 20, 2013

Center for Responsive Politics, Congressional Elections: Florida District 22 race 2014, Accessed Sept. 17, 2014

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Gov. Rick Scott hosts abortion bill event at mansion," July 30, 2011

Miami Herald, "XX marks the spot? Charlie Crist campaigning on abortion, equal pay, birth control," Sept. 9, 2014

Huffington Post, "Governor Rick Scott vetoes funding for rape crisis centers during Sexual Assault Awareness Month," April 23, 2012

PolitiFact Florida, "Charlie Crist has called himself both ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ and backed certain restrictions while opposing others," Feb. 7, 2014

Interview, Brenda Gilfillan, spokesman Charlie Crist’s campaign, Sept. 12, 2014

Interview, Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director, Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Sept. 15, 2014

Interview, Ron Book, pro-bono attorney, Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Sept. 15, 2014

Interview, Greg Blair, spokesman Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, Sept. 15, 2014

Interview, Miriam Firpo-Jimenez, section manager at Nancy J. Cotterman center in Broward, Sept. 16, 2014

Interview, John Tupps, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, Sept. 16, 2014

Interview, Majda Sarkic, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel's campaign, Sept. 17, 2014

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