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Fla. Health Officials Target Two More Abortion Clinics

September 21, 2015 — The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is moving to sanction two abortion clinics in the state, alleging the clinics are providing abortion services in the second trimester of pregnancy without the appropriate licensure, News Service of Florida/News4Jax reports (Menzel, News Service of Florida/News4Jax, 9/18).

Background

In July, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called for an investigation into abortion clinics in the state following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program. During the investigation, AHCA found no fetal tissue law violations, but claimed that 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. Laura Goodhue, executive director at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said the alleged violations were the result of AHCA having modified its definition for gestational periods and that centers were in compliance with Florida law.

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 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," or LMP.

Planned Parenthood dropped its request for an emergency injunction after AHCA acknowledged the clinics could continue providing abortion care within 14 weeks of LMP, and the clinics in August resumed providing abortion care at 12 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. However, the organization still is seeking a court order clarifying that abortions through 14 weeks of pregnancy are legal at the three clinics. Meanwhile, state officials have said they will continue to investigate Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/20).

Latest Allegations

According to News Service of Florida/News4Jax, AHCA is moving to sanction the two additional clinics, which are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, on similar grounds. AHCA fined one of the clinics, Bread and Roses Well Women Care in Gainesville, $2,500 and the other clinic, Aastra Women's Center in Plantation, $3,000.

On Friday, Julie Gallagher, an attorney representing the Planned Parenthood clinics and Aastra, said, "The addition of the new term 'weeks of gestation' that is calculated somehow differently than 'weeks LMP' -- and is in fact some kind of different date -- is evidence that they're making it up as they go along."

Gallagher added that she has informed AHCA that Planned Parenthood is going to challenge "this new definition, or this revolving definition" for not being officially established. Meanwhile, she said she is not sure why the state involved Aastra as an unaffiliated clinic into the investigation, "unless that's a way to refute claims that this is all political and that it's directed against Planned Parenthood."

Separately, Bob Weiss, an attorney representing Bread and Roses, said AHCA has defined 14 weeks as starting from the LMP for several years. According to the clinic, "that's the way that it's been interpreted and always the way that [AHCA] maintained their records," he said, adding, "This would appear to represent a change in position."

According to Weiss, Bread and Roses will respond to AHCA's allegations next week to challenge the fine and a corrective plan. The other clinics already have completed those actions, News Service of Florida/News4Jax reports (News Service of Florida/News4Jax, 9/18).