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After dual Florida Supreme Court rulings, Planned Parenthood reacts

Written by on Thursday, April 4, 2024

It means time-pressed treatment and out-of-state referrals on one hand, get-out-the vote action on the other.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Apr. 3, 2024

Host: On Monday, the Florida Supreme Court issued two rulings on abortion. One – it rejected a challenge to the 15-week abortion ban passed by the Florida Legislature two years ago. With that, a six-week abortion ban passed by the legislature last year becomes effective, possibly as early as May 1. At the same time, the justices approved the language of a ballot question to amend the Florida constitution. If the question gets more than 60% approval in the November elections, it would repeal the six-week ban, and extend the right to an abortion up to viability, which is 24 weeks. I asked Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Florida, about the impact of the Supreme Court rulings.

Barbara Zdravecky: For all of us who have been involved in this movement, we had mixed emotions for sure. The passage of the ability for us to put the ballot initiative on the 2024 ballot was an immense relief. We worked very hard for over a year and a half to make sure that the language would be accepted and that the ballot themselves, the petitions, could be collected, and we did a yeoman’s job in being able to provide over almost a million point five signed petitions to the supervisor of elections to get this done. It was a very superior effort. And the enthusiasm within the state was palpable, extraordinary. So, happily, we have that opportunity to move that forward.

Barbara Zdravecky

And now we’re working on getting out the vote and raising the money to have the media work done for this ballot initiative, which will provide the constitutional freedom for women and their families to have choices about how they deal with a pregnancy. Tragically, we had a decision that, on our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 15 week abortion ban and that automatically triggered the six week abortion ban that will go into effect, we believe, on May the 1st.

So our Hearts are broken, particularly for the patients who have no idea that this is happening in the state of Florida, because we know so many people are so busy with their lives, their jobs, their families, taking care of children, that they’re not closely monitoring the news, and so when they come into the health center, we expect I suspect that there will be lots of anger, frustration, fear, and many, many emotions that we’ll be dealing with as we determine the gestational opportunity that they have for an abortion in the state of Florida.

Johannes Werner: The six week-limit, according to Zdravecky, is practically a ban on abortion, because most women don’t realize they’re pregnant until after six weeks. The immediate impact of the six-week ban is more time pressure.

BZ: We, of course, will follow the law and make sure that patients that we can see, we will quickly … although, you know, in the state of Florida, we have a 24 hour waiting bill as well, which means that a patient has to come in and have their ultrasound and then have counseling and then wait 24 hours for a service. And so, that makes it even more dire when you’re looking at a six-week abortion ban to get patients in early. 

JW: Planned Parenthood will begin referring patients beyond the six weeks to out-of-state care. That presents a whole new set of challenges, for both the organization and patients.

BZ: And then those, of course, that are beyond the six week period, we will work with them to navigate them to a safe state, which for many patients will be very difficult, nerve-wracking, and tragic, because a lot of folks have never even been out of the state of Florida. So, moving patients to northern states is something that we are all preparing to do from the state of Florida.

JW: The backers of the ballot initiative, including Planned Parenthood Southwest Florida, are kicking off the get-out-the-vote effort with an event April 13 in Orlando. On high noon that Saturday at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, patients and doctors will address a crowd organizers hope will be in the thousands. There will be carpooling, particularly in Manatee County. You can find more information on the website of Floridians for Reproductive Freedom, floridareprofreedom.org.

This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News.


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