TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One of Florida’s 55 abortion providers says it could go bankrupt due to fines proposed by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. At issue is a 2015 law and a 2022 court decision, now requiring a 24-hour wait time after receiving a required in-person counseling session, before a patient can get an abortion.
Now, an Orlando women’s clinic is facing $193,000 in fines for 193 abortions performed that AHCA says happened without the required 24-hour hold. The hold was enacted by a 2nd Circuit judge in March.
The Center of Orlando For Women is accused, by AHCA in its petition to Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings, of performing the abortions without the 24-hour period despite a judge’s ruling enacting the delay. AHCA is the part of Florida’s government that regulates and tracks abortions.
The clinic, in response, instead says they had contacted AHCA asking for an effective date of the ruling’s order and did not receive one.
AHCA filed their petition for the fines on July 18. The petition accused the Center of Orlando For Women of performing the procedures without the 24-hold time from April 26 to May 7. Starting on May 10, compliance with the 24-hour period was reported, according to AHCA’s review of clinic records.
Florida statutes allow up to $1,000 in fines per count of violation, which AHCA is pursuing.
In a July 29 filing, attorney Julie Gallagher, representing the Center of Orlando For Women, said the more than $190,000 fine “would likely bankrupt” their client, forcing them out of business. Additionally, Gallagher’s response to AHCA’s petition details the Center of Orlando For Women’s attempts at coordinating with AHCA to comply with the effective date of the 24-hour rule.
Disputing facts of AHCA’s petition, Gallagher wrote that They had begun reaching out to the regulatory agency starting on April 14, were told that the agency had no information available regarding an effective date for the rule, and that AHCA itself had “not been notified that it is in effect” as of April 19.
Further calls to AHCA did not yield details requested by the Center of Orlando For Women, according to Gallagher’s filing, but that the agency had told the clinic on April 27 that it “should be following the 24-hour rule.” Continued attempts to reach AHCA were unsuccessful according to Gallagher. Information about the rule was not present on the AHCA website in May, and to the clinic’s knowledge, Gallagher’s filing says it still was not.
That said, Gallagher does not “the Agency did update its website to reflect changes to the reporting requirements placed on abortion clinics by a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2022.”
The agency reviewed clinic records for the Center of Orlando For Women beginning May 11, finding that out of 217 patient visits to the clinic, 193 had abortion procedures performed “on the same day of the initial clinic and physician visit; therefore, not meeting the 24-hour wait time” required before an abortion may be performed in Florida.