Florida enacts new abortion rules after six-week ban goes into effect

TALLAHASSEE – With a law now in effect banning abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, Florida health officials on Thursday issued emergency rules for the treatment of medical conditions that pose a threat to the lives of pregnant women or unborn children.

The state health department has released two rules that apply to hospitals and abortion clinics. The rules came into effect a day after the six-week law went into effect and significantly limited abortion access in the state.

Regulators focused on certain medical conditions that could occur after the sixth week of pregnancy and “may pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and welfare of women and unborn children in hospitals and abortion clinics,” the regulations said.

These conditions are “premature rupture of membranes,” commonly known as premature rupture of membranes in pregnant women; situations where premature rupture of membranes results in doctors inducing labor and babies dying; ectopic pregnancies; and treatment of so-called trophoblastic tumors.

The rules include record keeping and reporting on treatments. One of the rules requires hospitals to have written policies and procedures for maintaining records related to the treatment of the conditions. It also provides instructions on what must be included in policies.

For example, the rule states that hospital policy states that when a woman is diagnosed with premature rupture of the membranes, “the patient must be admitted for observation unless the treating physician decides that another course of action is more medically appropriate in the circumstances.” “To ensure the health of the mother and the unborn child.” If doctors choose a different approach, they would have to document the reasons.

Additionally, both rules state that when doctors attempt to induce live births and babies die due to prematurely ruptured membranes, it is “not an abortion.” Likewise, the treatment of ectopic pregnancies and trophoblastic tumors is not considered an abortion. The hospital policy would require doctors to document such treatments in patients' medical records.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside the main cavity of a woman's uterus. “The fertilized egg cannot survive and the growing tissue can cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated,” the Mayo Clinic website states.

According to information on the Cleveland Clinic website, trophoblastic tumors form “during abnormal pregnancies,” with some tumors being malignant but most being benign. The so-called trophoblastic disease of pregnancy is rare, the website says.

Florida lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved the six-week abortion deadline in 2023. But it didn't take effect until Wednesday, a month after the Florida Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 15-week limit passed in 2022. The Supreme Court ruling also allowed the six-week law to be further developed.

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The law provides limited exceptions when abortions can be performed after six weeks. For example, it would allow abortions if two doctors “certify in writing that, based on reasonable medical judgment, the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or to avert the serious risk of significant and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman other than mental illness.”

But opponents of the law have claimed that the exemptions are impractical and that the six-week deadline would endanger the health of women who may suffer from various medical conditions but are unable to have an abortion.

Opponents rejected the rules, published Thursday in the Florida Administrative Register, citing “disinformation.”

“The Agency (Health and Human Services Administration) determines that there is an imminent threat to the health, safety and well-being of pregnant women and babies as a result of deeply dishonest scaremongering and disinformation by the media, the Biden administration and special interest groups under the Heartbeat Protection Act “(the six-week law) and misrepresent the state’s efforts to protect lives, mothers and families,” the rules read.

Anna Harden

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