Inside a Florida abortion clinic before the Supreme Court ruling

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At a Planned Parenthood health center on Florida’s Gulf Coast, new restrictions about who can get an abortion upsets...


FORT MYERS, Fla. — At a Planned Parenthood health center on Florida’s Gulf Coast, new restrictions about who can get an abortion upsets routines and creates challenges for the clinic’s patients, doctors and nurses.

The center, in Fort Myers, has seen a steady influx of patients from Texas since last September, when a ban on all but first abortions went into effect there, and from other states that have tightened access to the procedure over the past year.

It also accommodates a waiting period that Has taken effect in Florida in April after years of litigation, forcing abortion patients to have an ultrasound and then wait at least 24 hours before returning for the actual procedure. And a new state law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current 24 weeks, is set to go into effect July 1, though Planned Parenthood and other state abortion providers have said sued to try to block it.

In addition to these changes, the Supreme Court is set to issue a decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States. Florida is not one of the 13 states with so-called trigger laws, which will quickly ban nearly all abortions if Roe is overturned. But several neighboring states have such laws, so the center could end up seeing even more out-of-state visitors after the ruling. And the Florida legislature could enact more restrictions.

Many patients in Florida undergo medical abortions, which involve taking two different medications, 24 to 48 hours apart, and are permitted for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. But the center also offers surgical abortions up to almost 22 weeks of pregnancy, at least until the new law takes effect. It also offers pelvic and breast exams, different types of contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and other types of reproductive health care.

Protesters are an almost constant presence at the center. Planned Parenthood moved to a new, larger building in 2020; one morning in January, several dozen protesters blocked the entrance, leading to at least nine arrests. Staff members working that day feared the building itself might be breached, but they pressed a panic button that locked the doors and police arrived quickly, said Stephanie Fraim, president and chief executive. of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

One afternoon in May, a 72-year-old former nurse was among a group of Catholic protesters gathered outside the center, praying that people would not choose the procedure. “Abortion is not health care,” said the retired nurse, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Gwen. “Killing at either end of your life is not health care.”

The next day, a 27-year-old mother of two was waiting for her surgical abortion to begin. She had wanted to continue with her pregnancy, she said. But when she and her fiancé wondered how they could afford to live with a third child, she decided against it. Her fiancé had considered taking a second job, but she wanted him to have time to spend with their daughters.

Once the procedure began, Dr Stacy De-Lin, then the center’s associate medical director, worked quickly as the patient cried softly on the examining table, her fiancé squeezing her hand. A few minutes later, when the abortion was over, the couple kissed for a long time. She was 11 weeks pregnant.

“It was heavy for me,” the patient said later, reflecting on the experience. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do. But it was something we had to do as a couple, which would benefit our family and our children.

Dr. De-Lin returned to New York last month. She previously worked as Associate Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York and would practice again in the state, where abortion will remain legal until 24 weeks of pregnancy, or later if the fetus is not viable or the patient’s life or health is in danger, regardless of the decision of the Supreme Court. Part of the reason she left Florida, she said, was that she would no longer be allowed to perform abortions past 15 weeks pregnant if the new law went into effect as planned.

“The state you live in shouldn’t dictate what health care you can access,” she said, “so it’s just extremely overwhelming and heartbreaking.”

Gabriela Bhaskar reported from Fort Myers, and Abby Goodnough from Washington.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Inside a Florida abortion clinic before the Supreme Court ruling
Inside a Florida abortion clinic before the Supreme Court ruling
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