Florida’s ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy goes into effect in May

Florida, the last bastion of abortion access in the southeastern United States, will do the same ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy starting next month, leaving abortion providers and their supporters in the state and across the country struggling to cope with the impact on patients.

On Monday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a 15-week abortion ban, a move that removed barriers to a separate six-week ban that will take effect May 1. In a separate ruling, the court also agreed to let Florida residents have their say on the issue through a November ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution — a decision that opens a new front in elections now underway will certainly be dominated by abortion politics.

“We are all hopeful for November, but realize that from May to November we will be turning away patients at an unprecedented rate,” said Dr. Chelsea Daniels, a primary care physician and abortion provider in Miami, Florida. “It feels like a punch in the gut.”

Georgia is the closest state in the region that still allows the procedure, but then also bans abortion six weeks earlier many women know they are pregnant. After that ban went into effect, the number of abortions in the state dropped by almost half. according to a recent analysis. Once Florida’s six-week ban goes into effect, it will be even stricter than Georgia’s. While both states require abortion patients to wait 24 hours between being counseled about the procedure and actually receiving it, Florida requires counseling to take place in person — meaning people have to make two trips to the clinic instead of one.

Daniels estimates that at the Planned Parenthood clinic where she works, three-quarters of her patients are already six weeks pregnant. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, her clinic has also treated patients from states including Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, all of which have banned nearly all abortions. In 2023, more than 80,000 abortions were performed in Florida.

“Where are these 80,000 patients going?” said Daniels, who is also a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health. “With the number of states that have restrictions, there There simply aren’t enough states that protect abortion to accommodate this volume.”

Also some abortion funds They are concerned that once Florida’s six-week ban goes into effect, they will run out of money and be unable to meet the requests they expect to receive for travel assistance. Many funds are already under significant financial pressure because so many people now have to travel out of state for abortions.

Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of the abortion fund Florida Access Network, said she estimates the cost per patient could increase from $1,500 to $3,000. Megan Jeyifo, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, expects costs for her fund to increase by more than $100,000 per month after the six-week ban takes effect. Her fund has helped about 2,000 people from Florida and neighboring states come to Illinois for abortions.

“If we lose Florida, we just lose this huge lifeline, not just for Floridians, but for people in the South,” Jeyifo said. “We are about to turn people away for the first time in five years. The rage donations have dried up. Interest in this issue has waned when there are so many other competing crises in our country and the world.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund saw “thousands and thousands of dollars pouring in,” said McKenna Kelley, a board member and volunteer for the abortion fund. But in the hours since the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling, Kelley said that, to her knowledge, the fund has only received roughly $1,000 — enough to likely pay for one abortion patient.

“That’s really what it comes down to. We expect at least 90% of our callers will have to leave the state. And it’s a lot of money,” Kelley said.

For now, Daniels said she’s focused on caring for as many patients as possible. Although her clinic also provides infertility and prenatal care services, she expects the clinic will prioritize as many abortion patients as possible before May. The clinic will also likely expand its hours.

“I feel like I’ve gone through all the stages of grief in the last sixteen hours. “I have cried and screamed and I have had very difficult conversations, not only professionally with my employer, but also with my loved ones,” she said. But she added: “Until they pull the instruments out of my hands, I will provide abortion care up to 15 weeks.”