Florida’s stricter abortion ban could put more pressure on clinics elsewhere | Trending Viral hub

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The trip to Bristol, Virginia, from Jacksonville, Florida, takes more than eight hours. It’s more than 10 from Orlando and closer to 14 from Miami. Despite that distance, Bristol Women’s Health Center is preparing for an influx of Florida women seeking abortions when a stricter ban goes into effect next month.

For many people who would otherwise have obtained abortions in Florida, the clinic in southwest Virginia will become the closest practical option, as it already is for a swath of the South after a policy change in Florida that is expected to resonate far beyond the borders of the state.

“Most of the patients we serve come from banned states,” said Karolina Ogorek, administrative director of the clinic. “I think Florida will become another one of the states we serve.”

On Monday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That measure allows another, stricter ban to take effect on May 1, making abortion illegal in the state after six weeks of gestation, before many women realize they are pregnant. The ban includes exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking, or that threaten the life or physical health of the woman and for fatal fetal anomalies.

In a separate but closely related ruling, the court also allowed a referendum that will allow the state’s voters to decide in November whether they want an amendment to the state constitution allowing abortion up to viability.

Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of Florida Access Network, which helps pay for abortion care for Florida women, said the law, along with a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, will be a “total ban” in practical terms.

And going to a provider elsewhere, she said, will raise the average cost of abortion (including transportation, lodging, meals, child care and clinic fees) to about $4,000, about double what it costs. now. That will put pressure on organizations like yours, which often already reach their budget limits well before the end of the month, as they shift to helping people get health care elsewhere.

That could leave people unable to take time off work, afford to travel, arrange childcare or lack documentation to travel, Piñeiro said.

“The most marginalized people are going to be isolated so they don’t have access,” he said.

He said he expects some of the state’s clinics to close due to lack of patients.

Currently, the average distance to a facility that offers abortions to Florida residents is 20 miles (32 kilometers), said Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College in Vermont who studies the impact of abortion bans. But when the new ban takes effect, the average distance to one that offers abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy will be 584 miles (940 kilometers).

And that only brings patients to North Carolina, where two in-person visits 72 hours apart are required to receive an abortion, and only during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

Virginia is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.

Some areas already have long drives to the nearest abortion providers: eight hours from San Antonio, Texas, to Santa Teresa, New Mexico, for example, and nine from New Orleans to Carbondale, Illinois, or from Houston to Wichita, Kansas. But geography will make South Florida the most populated place in the United States and the furthest from in-person abortion access after the first six weeks.

Georgia and South Carolina, which have bans that start after about six weeks, and Ohio, which had a similar one for a time, have seen about half as many abortions with those policies in place. Some people can get an abortion close to home earlier in pregnancy instead of traveling.

It’s not just Florida residents who will be affected by the new ban.

“Florida is a really important state for abortion access in the South, and has been a state that has seen an increase in travelers from Georgia and Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana traveling outside of those states, avoiding near-total bans or six weeks to travel. facilities,” Myers said.

Of the 84,000 abortions performed in Florida last year, about 7,700 were for people who live out of state. Now most of those patients will also travel further for access.

The total number of abortions in the country has remained more or less stable since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the national right to abortion in 2022. But the details have changed.

Many more are obtained through pills than through surgery, with a significant increase in prescriptions via telehealth, even to patients in states with provider bans where laws seek to protect such prescriptions. But there could be legal tests to determine whether those protections are valid. And the U.S. Supreme Court is already considering an effort to reverse approvals of one of two drugs typically used in combination for medical abortion.

Planned Parenthood centers in Florida have been preparing for the stricter ban to take effect. Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Alliance of Florida Affiliates, said they have implemented rapid blood tests to determine pregnancy earlier, increased education and contraception programs and stepped up efforts to help people travel to other places to abort.

“We’re doing what we can,” he said. “But as we’ve seen in other states, it will still have a devastating impact on our public health system.”

Since states began implementing bans after the 2022 ruling, the Bristol clinic has added appointment slots on afternoons, Saturdays and some Sundays, and has accommodated the idea that patients might arrive late because of the traffic jams as far away as Atlanta.

“For them to come to Virginia, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” Ogorek said. “It’s not just missing a few hours from work and driving 20 minutes”

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