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Six-week abortion ban takes effect May 1

Written by on Friday, May 3, 2024

A Planned Parenthood executive explains the impact.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: May 1, 2024

Host: Today is May 1, and that is the date Florida’s six-week abortion ban is taking effect.  The state supreme court ruled April 1 that the ban – which some say is equal to a total ban – was constitutional, and the one-month grace period has now lapsed. That means a complete change in how reproductive healthcare and abortions are managed. We talked to Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

Johannes Werner: Doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood have been working overtime this past month, and they have been preparing for today, Zdravecky says. The ones that are least prepared, she says, are patients.

Barbara Zdravecky: It’s a tragic day for health care in Florida. We have entered upon an American health care crisis with the ruling that came through and was implemented today. But our affiliate health centers have been in preparation for a month since April 1, when the Supreme Court ruled. So in order to get in as many patients as possible, we opened up our schedules and have been working on Saturdays, establishing more time to get patients in. Generally, patients know about what’s happened. But unfortunately, not all of our patients are in touch with what’s happening in the news, particularly politically. And so today is the day when a lot of folks will be getting the shocking news that they can’t have an abortion in the state of Florida.


JW: One of the changes the organization is expanding call center hours, and preparing operators for the new situation.

BZ: We also have done a lot of expansion of the hours in our call centers, and special training for the call center staff and the team members, our providers and our staff people, because they are not necessarily prepared for giving patients the news that we can’t take care of them, because we have taken care of patients no matter what. And this is a different situation for us.

JW: The biggest new aspect is the referral of patients to out-of-state services — and coping with emotions, both by callers and operators.

BZ: We will make sure that patients get referred to the care that they need, where they can find it, and how they can access it. But we have never been in that situation before. So the upsetness and anger and questioning that comes from the patients is received by staff who aren’t used to getting that information. So it’s really a double edged trauma, both for the patients and the staff, as we try to have our patients be transferred to where they need to go, depending upon their gestational age. We are seeing patients to establish that gestational age, because it’s important to know so that you can understand what states have what laws and if they have waiting periods, and how they can access getting to that health care center and making an appointment. So it’s become very complex, very frightening, very unusual and unreal to the patients who are presenting themselves.

JW: The closest states they refer to are North Carolina and Virginia. A key piece of information is how far along the pregnancy is.

BZ: In North Carolina, for instance, they can see patients up to 12 weeks, but they also have a 72-hour waiting period. So you have to look at the computation of the pregnancy with that 72-hour waiting period. That computation in order to see if the patient is eligible to go to North Carolina for something that is up to 12 weeks. The next nearest state is Richmond, Virginia and they have a limit of, I believe, 22 weeks, and that’s of course, the closest to Florida. But then again, you have people that have relationships in other states. They are not going to look for where the closest state is to them. And like if you’re a patient that lives in Key West, nothing’s gonna be close because you’re going to have to, if you’re going to drive, you’re going to drive all the way through the State of Florida and to North Carolina or to Virginia. And if it’s not possible or you have relatives in the Northeast, or Midwest where they are seeing patients, and of course they will go that direction. But it is a maze for patients who are used to getting the care in their home state, which is what they should be able to get. Unfortunately that’s no longer available.

JW: Another new set of services is helping pay for these out-of-state services.

BZ: Websites are available and apps are available, to allow patients to navigate themselves to where the nearest and most appropriate provider is, and they can request funding for travel, for food, for lodging in the case that it’s a two-day procedure or they need to stay overnight and come back. So there is a network. We use an extensive network to refer patients.

In a pre-emptive move, the organization also made contraceptives more accessible.

Reporting for WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.