FILE - Wilton Simpson, Florida Legislature

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby speaks during Opening Day at the Capitol Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Tallahassee, Fla.

(The Center Square) – The Florida Catholic Conference and other abortion opponents are praising Gov. Ron DeSantis for vetoing a $2 million allocation to increase access to hormonal long-acting reversible contraception (HLARC) for low-income girls and women.

The expenditure was added during 11th-hour budget conferencing before the 2021 session adjourned April 30 at the behest of Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, after companion bills proposing the creation of state HLARC program failed to gain traction in either chamber.

The $2 million LARC program was among 152 line-item vetoes DeSantis issued in trimming $1.5 billion from the $101.5 billion budget lawmakers approved when he signed a $100 billion Fiscal Year 22 spending plan into law Wednesday.

“We are happy to report that included in his line-item vetoes was a new $2 million recurring appropriation for family planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, to promote and provide Hormonal Long-acting Reversible Contraception,” Tallahassee-based Florida Catholic Bishops Conference said in a statement.

The conference sent a May 12 letter to the governor requesting he veto the funding. It said more than 2,000 responded, sending letters to DeSantis, a Catholic, calling on him to nix the allocation.

“We are grateful for the thousands of Floridians who joined us in urging the governor to veto the HLARC appropriation, and we thank Governor DeSantis for listening and taking action!” the conference said.

The Florida Catholic Bishops Conference and others claim HLARCs don’t prevent conception by impeding fertilized embryos from gaining traction in women’s uteruses.

“We recognize that life begins at the moment of conception and, therefore, have concerns about abortifacients in addition to our concerns with surgical and chemical abortions,” the conference’s letter read.

The letter claims that “HLARCs have an abortifacient effect as they impede implantation of an embryo in the uterus” noting that “women continue to ovulate while using these products; conception still occurs.”

The conference cites studies that “suggest” HLARC “mechanisms” can alter the endometrium. “That is to say, it creates an inhospitable womb for the implantation and growth of the newly-conceived human being,” the letter states.

But the effort to provide funding for an HLARC program for low-income women will be revived in 2022 by Simpson and Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Chair Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, because they and other abortion opponents maintain it would reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Both vow to do a better job “selling” the concept to abortion foes that HLARCs are not abortifacients.

Supporters cite a Colorado study that confirmed HLARC programs reduced unintended pregnancies and a Mayo Clinic study that shows LARCs – intrauterine devices, contraceptive implants, contraceptive injections – are 20 times better at reducing unwanted pregnancies than birth-control pills or patches.

The HLARC program was part of a larger effort by Simpson, adopted at age 6, to improve conditions and outcomes for children living in foster care.

“It just gives these young women an opportunity to live a life that otherwise is not available to them,” Simpson told the News Service of Florida Thursday. “I am a pro-life senator. This actually prevents a lot of abortions from happening.”

Senate Bill 1154, filed by Bean, and a House companion, House Bill 925, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Williams, called for the creation of an HLARC Program within the state’s Department of Health (DOH).

Despite Simpson’s behind-the-scenes urging, neither bill got a hearing, even by the Senate committee Bean chairs. During closed-door conferencing, Simpson admitted he “sprinkled” the $2 million HLARC program into the budget.

But Budget Line Item #500 didn’t get past DeSantis, who vetoed it without comment.