New abortion reality in 2024 “unimaginable” • Florida Phoenix

A longtime official at Planned Parenthood in Florida said Wednesday that the organization's “North Star” is to care for its patients regardless of circumstances. That's why she says her job will be to help women outside of Florida gain reproductive health, since the state now bans most abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy.

“Our care will help patients move out of the state of Florida so they can find care in states that are friendlier to them,” said Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, at a press conference held on The organization's headquarters will be held in Sarasota.

“We have prepared many mental health strategies to deal with our staff who have had the opportunity to provide care in any case and to deal with patients who are disbelieving, angry, tearful and do not know where to turn “” She said. “We have a lot of resources for these patients and we know we can help them determine what state they need to go to by making sure their gestational age is authenticated.”

Zdravecky led the organization for 24 years before retiring at the end of 2017. She recently returned to serve as interim CEO.

Since Florida clinics can no longer provide abortion services to women after six weeks, North Carolina, where abortion is legal up to 12 weeks, and Virginia will be the closest states to the South where women will have access to an abortion. It is in the legal in the first two trimesters.

Dr. Robyn Schickler, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said the new law “will only serve to harm our patients” and said people typically first realize they are pregnant in six weeks.

“We date pregnancies from the first day of the last menstrual period,” she said. “This means that if someone has a regular period, it will already have been four weeks by the time they miss their period [pregnant]. This gives them little time to 1) realize they missed their period and may be pregnant and 2) get the care they need.”

The new law provides an exemption for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking, which applies until the 15th week of pregnancy. The law requires a woman who is the victim of one of these incidents to provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical report or other court order or documentary evidence at the time of her appointment or appointment to have the abortion performed .

Schickler says these exceptions are not enough.

“It enables doctors like me to interpret the law when we were still trained as physicians. Then we have to interpret a law to figure out whether or not we can care for a patient,” she said. “Given these bans, it is so difficult as a doctor to know what we can and cannot do. The politicians who passed these laws have their hands tied. And my patients' hands are tied. They can’t make decisions about their own bodies.”

“Abortion bans are particularly harmful to brown and black people like me, who are already more likely to present financial, geographic and systemic barriers to accessing health care,” added Dawnyelle Singleton, the organization’s volunteer and community programs manager, who touted the constitutional change Vote in November that would restore a woman's right to have an abortion to the point of feasibility.

That was the situation in Florida until the state passed a 15-week abortion law in 2022. The next year, in 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the 6-week abortion ban. But that ban faced legal challenges for a year. The Florida Supreme Court ultimately ruled on the matter on April 1, 2024, allowing the six-week abortion ban on May 1.

“We are committed to continuing to fight for the right of all Floridians to access health care, but the situation we face today is, as I said, unimaginable in 2024,” Zdravecky said.

Anna Harden

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