August 20, 2015 — Three Florida Planned Parenthood clinics will resume providing abortion care at 12 and 13 weeks of pregnancy, The Hill reports (Sullivan, The Hill, 8/19).
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 and its fetal tissue donation program.
During the investigation, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration 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. In response, 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.
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. FAPPA stopped providing abortions in the 12th and 13th weeks of gestation and requested an emergency injunction to permit the three clinics to resume providing such care.
Specifically, Goodhue said AHCA was inconsistent in its interpretation of gestational periods. AHCA during the investigation 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/18).
Planned Parenthood on Wednesday said AHCA has confirmed that the three clinics are allowed to provide abortions within the 14th week of a woman's last menstrual period (Kennedy, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/19). In a letter to Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, AHCA General Counsel Stuart Williams wrote that the clinics "are authorized within the scope of their current licenses to continue providing terminations of pregnancy during the first 14 completed weeks from the last normal menstrual period (i.e., during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy/gestation)."
On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood said it will drop its request for an emergency injunction against state health officials. Barbara Zdravecky, CEO at Planned Parenthood Southwest and Central Florida, said "the concession by AHCA has removed the immediate necessity for an injunction and we will not pursue one at this time" (Cotterell, Reuters, 8/19).
Meanwhile, state officials have said they will continue to investigate Planned Parenthood (The Hill, 8/19). According to the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, although both Planned Parenthood and state officials appear to agree on the 14-week definition of the first trimester, there could be disagreement about when a pregnancy begins (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/19). State officials still claim that the clinics were performing second-trimester abortions.
Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood, called the claim "ridiculous" and "politically motivated." He added, "We've said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards" (The Hill, 8/19).
Separately, Zdravecky said, "While we will of course cooperate with legitimate investigations, the public does not want elected officials spending time and money looking into bogus claims that are just part of a political agenda."
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Gallagher noted that while an emergency injunction is no longer necessary, Planned Parenthood still is seeking a court order clarifying that abortions through 14 weeks of pregnancy are legal at the three clinics (Reuters, 8/19).