Florida abortion clinics hit with thousands of dollars in fines over GOP-backed 24-hour law
More than a dozen Florida abortion providers are facing fines under an eight year old law making "pregnant patients wait 24 hours before getting the procedure," Politico reports.
This comes after, according to the New York Times, Florida GOP lawmakers proposed legislation "in the House and Senate that would further restrict the state's abortion ban to six from 15 weeks of pregnancy."
The Times reports "if a ban passes and is signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida would prohibit abortion before many women even realize they are pregnant."
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Regarding the 24-hour law, Politico reports:
Abortion-rights advocates say providers were given little chance to prepare for the law, which requires patients to wait 24 hours between clinic visits. In some instances, clinics were not in compliance with the '24 hour' law because of paperwork issues or computer problems.
Although the law was approved in 2015, according to Politico, it failed to move forward "after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged it," but when a judge confirmed the law in April of 2022, the state "abortion regulator, the Agency for Health Care Administration, almost immediately began issuing fines."
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said, "We have a lot of independent clinics in this state that are working hard to provide women with access, so it's a shame. And women are getting hurt in the process, especially the ones coming from out of state."
The state began enforcing the 24 hour law after a Leon County Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey tossed out the legal challenge to the law in April, which was first filed by the Bread and Roses Women's Health Center in Gainesville. Lawyers from the ACLU argued on behalf of the clinic that the law violated a privacy right in the state Constitution that had been successfully cited in the past to uphold abortion protections.
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Julie Gallagher, according to Politico, represented Center of Orlando for Women, arguing "that imposing the maximum fine for each violation was arbitrary and unfair, according to records filed with the state Division of Administrative Hearings."
"At trial, the agency had no justification, or explanation, for the maximum fine other than 'we always start at the maximum' or 'we always do it this way,'" Gallagher told Politico. "This is not a valid use of agency discretion."
State inspectors levied the maximum $1,000 fine on clinics whose individual patient files didn't include any notes or paperwork showing compliance with the 24-hour law. The state issued the largest fine, $193,000, against an Orlando abortion clinic that inspectors alleged violated the law for 193 patients.
Three out of the fined 14 clinics have "settled with the state for reduced fines," according to Politico.
Florida Democratic House leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell criticized the Florida GOP, saying, "It's very easy to be tough on abortion when you're sitting hundreds of miles away in your ivory tower in Tallahassee versus these doctors and nurses who are dealing with women who are about to make one of the most consequential decisions of their lives."
READ MORE: Doctors warned her pregnancy could kill her — then Tennessee outlawed abortion
Politico's full report is available at this link. The New York Times' report is here.
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