Women’s clinics in FL scrambling to serve worried patients as abortion rights shrink

By: and - July 1, 2022 3:46 pm

Barbara DeVane , with the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women, speaks at the Historic Florida Capitol following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion protections under Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Reproductive-health clinics in Florida, stuck between a new ban on performing abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy and an order coming next week to block it, reported being flooded with phone calls from anxious patients as the ban took effect Friday.

Florida has 55 licensed abortion sites. Contacted by the Florida Phoenix, a number of providers declined to speak to reporters as a matter of policy; others described harried conditions at their clinics but did not want to be named; and three spoke on the record. 

“Our phones have been lighting up for a while. Primarily, we’re dealing with uncertainty and trying to make sure we’re getting correct information to our patients,” said Liberty Feucht, director of Tampa Women’s Health Center. 

Feucht has had to tell some callers the clinic cannot help them terminate their pregnancies until Florida Circuit Judge John Cooper executes an order he outlined verbally on Thursday temporarily blocking the 15-week ban adopted by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It’s not clear how long conservatives on the Florida Supreme Court will allow that injunction to stand.

Staff at two other clinics, one in Gainesville, one in West Palm Beach, reported that patients are expressing worry, are taking pregnancy tests on a daily basis, and/or are seeking information about abortion medications.

Spike in inquiries

Her clinic has seen a spike in inquiries about abortion medications, which are approved for ending pregnancy up to 77 days after a woman’s last period, Feucht said. Although they are more readily available in other states, the medications (mifepristone and misoprostol) can be dispensed in Florida only in clinics under a doctor’s care. 

Since April, Florida has imposed a waiting period requiring that patients make two visits: one for evaluation and an ultrasound exam, and another 24 hours later. Planned Parenthood publishes guidelines for the use of those medications.

Emergency contraception pills, to be taken within 72 hours after possible conception, are available in stores and online, but pharmacy chains around the nation such as CVS and Rite-Aid reported this week that demand is high and quantities are temporarily being rationed, according to MedicineNet and other news outlets.

Michael Jackson, president of the Florida Pharmacy Association, estimated that a dozen states are experiencing a run on those supplies as Republican-led states crack down on abortion rights.

Pregnant women with the least resources will be the most harmed by Florida’s 15-week ban, Georgia’s pending six-week ban, and sharp limits on abortions in other Southeastern states, said Amber Gavin, vice president at A Woman’s Choice, an independent abortion provider with clinics in Florida and North Carolina. 

“People who already face barriers to accessing abortion earlier in pregnancy will suffer the most. That means people who are struggling to make ends meet, Black people, people of color, and young people,” Gavin said.

She condemned the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Republican Florida Legislature’s  adoption of a 15-week ban with no exceptions for rape or incest — only to preserve the life or health of the mother or in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities — adding that tens of thousands of women each year get abortions past 15 weeks.

Closest clinic in N.C.

People need abortions after 15 weeks for many reasons, including needing time to save up for an abortion. The nearest clinic to provide care after 15 weeks for Floridians will be hundreds of miles away in North Carolina, which means many people must save up for not only the procedure but also for travel and childcare,” Gavin said.

The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is actively helping women find the abortion services they seek through in-state and out-of-state partnerships, said founding director Kelly Nelson.

“TBAF has been preparing for this, and no caller will fall through the legal cracks while this is being settled. We are scheduling at our new partner clinics out of state and supporting any callers who need to travel today, tomorrow, next week, and beyond,” Nelson said.

“Additionally, it is highly likely that the ban will go through several iterations and could be reinstated entirely. At this point, abortion care after 15 weeks is not guaranteed in Florida. But we are committed to helping pregnant people visiting clinics in the Tampa Bay area from Florida or from nearby states, as well as traveling from the Tampa Bay area out-of-state for timely service.”

The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is financed by grants from Resist, the National Women’s Law Center, National Network of Abortion Funds’ Collective Power Fund, National Network of Abortion Funds’ Rapid Response/Emergency Relief, Digital Defense Fund, Tara Health Foundation, and Jane’s Due Process.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.