August 18, 2015 —
Planned Parenthood on Monday requested an emergency injunction to permit three clinics in Florida to resume providing abortion care at 12 and 13 weeks of pregnancy, AP/Modern Healthcare reports (AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/17).
In July, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood facilities following the release of a series of misleading videos about the organization.
The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration during the investigation found no indication that the organization conducted any improper sale of fetal tissue. However, the agency said three of the 16 Planned Parenthood facilities in the state provided abortion care during the second trimester of pregnancy even though they were licensed only to provide abortion care in the first trimester.
Meanwhile, Laura Goodhue, executive director at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said the violations were the result of AHCA having modified its definitions for gestational periods and that centers were in compliance with Florida law (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/6).
An AHCA spokesperson said the clinics were told "to immediately cease performing second trimester abortions," and that the state could fine the clinics $500 per violation (Menzel, News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 8/17). FAPPA stopped providing abortions in the 12th and 13th weeks of gestation pending a ruling. Since stopping those services, FAPPA has referred about 10 patients to other providers.
State's Inconsistent Interpretation Spurs Injunction Request
According to Goodhue, Planned Parenthood "wants a judge to immediately 'clarify that we are in fact following the rule'" on gestational periods "as stated in the regulation so (the state) doesn't take further administrative action" (AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/17). The injunction, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, aims "to protect women's access to safe, legal abortion" (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 8/17).
Specifically, Goodhue said AHCA was inconsistent in its interpretation of gestational periods (AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/17). During the investigation, AHCA used a rule that defines the second trimester as the "portion of a pregnancy following the 12th week and extending through the 24th week of gestation." However, Planned Parenthood said AHCA in its investigation ignored an agency rule that defines the first trimester as "extending through the completion of 14 weeks of pregnancy as measured from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period."
Julie Gallagher, an attorney who represents Planned Parenthood and previously served as general counsel for AHCA, noted that the agency has conducted inspections using the 14-week definition since 2006. "Nobody has ever deemed these procedures to be second trimester," she said, adding, "Suddenly, after nine years of using language that we agreed to in a rule challenge -- and everybody's been on the same page for nine years -- suddenly they're saying that these procedures that are performed and documented this way are now second-trimester procedures, and illegal at that. And we say, 'No, they're not'" (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 8/17).