The waiting period law was first passed in 2015, but blocked by the courts for seven years before finally going into effect last April. Like similar policies in at least a dozen other states, it requires a pregnant person to have two visits with a physician at least 24 hours apart to get an abortion.
Employees of at least two Florida abortion clinics that were fined over violations of the law, including one in Orlando, have argued they weren’t notified by the state of the law’s effective date. The law went into effect April 25, 2022, after a Leon County Circuit Judge entered a final judgment earlier that month upholding it.
At least 14 abortion clinics in Florida are facing fines from the state over the 24-hour waiting period law, according to WPTV, ranging between $1 and the $193,000 fine imposed on the Orlando abortion clinic.
Over the weekend, Stand With Abortion Now, a volunteer clinic escort group based in Orlando, launched a fundraiser for three abortion clinics in South Florida that are facing fines: East Cypress Women’s Center in Fort Lauderdale, facing a $56,000 fine, and two clinics in Miami-Dade County — A Woman’s Care in Miami Lakes and A Woman’s Choice in Miami Beach — that are each facing $20,000 fines, according to public records.
“Just like with [the Center of Orlando for Women], we need YOUR help to assist these clinics in their struggle against politically motivated, non-medical laws that only exist to target and regulate abortion providers out of existence,” the group wrote on their fundraiser page, hosted by GiveButter. “They ALL need your help to stay open and continue to serve Floridians and the abortion refugees across the South and beyond that seek care in our state,” the group adds.
Over the last three days, the group has raised $12,463 from 70 donors — about 12% of their goal — with the largest contribution coming from SWAN itself. The group kicked off the fundraising campaign for the three clinics with a $10,000 donation, describing it as overflow funds from their last fundraiser for the abortion clinic in Orlando.
A representative of SWAN — a group that formed after the Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade privacy decision — was not immediately available for comment. But the group has a sizable following, thanks to their popular TikTok account, which has amassed over 373,000 followers.
An attorney for the Center of Orlando for Women, a private abortion clinic formerly known as the Orlando Women's Center, told Orlando Weekly in August that the Orlando clinic's staff had contacted the state over a dozen times to seek clarification on that law's effective date last year, but without success.
“We were very diligent in trying to find out the effective date of the change,” said Julie Gallagher, the clinic’s attorney.
A judge had recommended that state health regulators reduce the fines to $67,550, but a final AHCA ruling ordered the clinic to pay $193,000 — the maximum it could impose for 193 alleged violations of the waiting period law. All violations occurred within the first two weeks of the law's effective date, according to legal documents.
Local activists stepped up. Within weeks of launching a fundraiser to help the clinic cover this steep fine, members of SWAN, who escort patients safely to and from the Orlando clinic's doors, raised that $193,000 and then some.
Gallagher, the clinic's attorney, had previously written in her rebuttal to the state’s proposed $193,000 fine that such a cost “would likely force the clinic into bankruptcy or closure.”
Since 2010, at least 31 abortion clinics in Florida have either closed or had their licenses revoked, according to AHCA data.
With a six-week abortion ban looming over the state, and more people traveling to Florida for abortion care, the future of the abortion clinics that remain in Florida — a haven for abortion access in the U.S. South — is uncertain.
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