Florida abortion ban prompts two states to prepare for influx of patients| Trending Viral hub

After the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for a statewide ban on abortions after six weeksClinics in North Carolina and Virginia say they are preparing for an influx of patients.

Once the law goes into effect on May 1, Florida will no longer be a haven for people seeking abortions throughout the South. Currently, the state allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, a much less restrictive policy than implemented in many nearby statesincluding Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

More than 9,300 people traveled to Florida from other states for abortion services last year, more than double the number in 2020, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion access.

About 84,000 abortions were performed in Florida in 2023, representing about 1 in 12 abortions nationwide.

In May, the closest option for Floridians and some others in the South seeking abortions will be North Carolina, which allows abortions up to 15 weeks but requires people to receive in-person counseling at least 72 hours in advance. The next closest option is Virginia.

Abortion clinics in both states are preparing to serve more patients by adding staff or expanding hours. Providers have had time to prepare since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s six-week ban in April 2023. Its implementation was put on hold pending the state Supreme Court’s decision, which came Monday.

Bristol Women’s Health Center, which offers abortions in southwest Virginia, expanded its hours a few months ago to serve people in Florida and other southern states. It has also begun offering services in the evenings and sometimes on weekends.

“It’s hard enough for someone driving 12 hours away,” said Karolina Ogorek, the center’s administrative director. “While the state is taking away reproductive health options from them, such as an abortion provider and clinic, we want to give them as many options as possible so they can access the care they need.”

The center also plans to work with funding agencies like The Pink House Fund in Mississippi to help cover travel and lodging costs for patients coming from far away.

A Woman’s Choice, a clinic network based in Jacksonville, Florida, opened a new clinic in Virginia last month in anticipation of Florida’s ban. That clinic is working to add doctors, according to Amber Gavin, the organization’s vice president of advocacy and operations.

But even so, he said, demand could be quite high.

“Florida was seeing a large influx of patients from the Southeast, and I am very concerned that neighboring states will not be able to accommodate all Floridians and people from the Southeast,” Gavin said.

Jenny Black, president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, similarly said the organization’s clinics in North Carolina are offering more appointments. But those clinics already have a two-week wait time for abortions.

“Planned Parenthood health center staff in North Carolina are doing everything they can to quickly expand capacity and increase appointment availability before Florida’s near-total ban takes effect, but it won’t be enough to stop the spread. of patients from across the South that we have few options,” Black said in a statement.

For many women, traveling for an abortion is not an option due to lack of resources or other circumstances.

Florida clinics anticipated the state’s new law and have already trained additional staff to perform ultrasounds and confirm pregnancies. They are trying to serve as many patients as possible before the end of the month.

“We are opening up more ultrasound appointments scheduled for the next 30 days so people can attend,” said Michelle Quesada, vice president of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida.

Quesada warned that, starting in May, patients will have to present before six weeks, since Florida law requires two in-person visits to a clinic, 24 hours apart, before an abortion.

“You should know you are pregnant in the fifth week of pregnancy, which is one week after a missed period for someone with a perfect 28-day cycle,” Quesada said.

“I can only imagine in 30 days the sheer volume of patients who will be confused, scared, feeling like they have no choice when they know it’s been more than six weeks,” he added.

Florida law allows exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

“I would think it’s OK to abort if the mother’s life is in danger. This particular law, this six-week bill, does, so there would be no reason to have to travel,” said Ingrid Durán. . , state legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion organization.

Durán pointed out that Florida’s ban leaves aside $25 million to expand the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a group of centers that aim to convince women not to have abortions. These centers offer pregnant women advice and supplies such as car seats and diapers, but some are known to provide inaccurate or misleading information.

Durán said the funding can help address the lack of access to health care, counseling and support which she believes could be “some of the reasons why women choose to have an abortion.”

However, the fate of abortion access in Florida is not set in stone: the state Supreme Court also decided that a proposed amendment to its constitution that would enshrine abortion protections may be on the November ballot.

What we’ve seen in other states is that when abortion is on the ballot, it wins,” Gavin said.

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