May 1, 2024 - News

As Florida's six-week abortion ban starts, here's how providers are preparing

A woman surrounded by several protesters yells holding up a sign that says "KEEK ABORTION LEGAL" with one hand and a banner that reads "END THE SIX WEEK ABORTION BAN" with the other.

Protesters yell during a rally to stop the six-week abortion ban last month in Orlando. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As Florida's six-week abortion ban begins Wednesday, providers and advocates both in and out of state are bracing for a massive shift in the national abortion landscape.

Why it matters: As options narrow for people seeking abortions, patients, providers and support organizations like abortion funds are facing "an exponential increase in burden," says Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist with the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think tank.

State of play: Providers and abortion funds in Florida are shifting their focus to communicating the new ban and helping patients who don't know they're pregnant until after six weeks seek care elsewhere.

  • Those out of state are bracing for a crush of new patients from the Sunshine State and across the south.

By the numbers: More than 84,000 abortions were performed in Florida last year, according to state figures. About 7,700 patients came from out of state.

Catch up quick: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the six-week ban into law last year, but whether it went into effect was contingent on a then-pending Florida Supreme Court ruling. A 15-week ban stayed in place in the meantime.

  • On April 1, the court cleared the way for the more-restrictive ban to go into effect 30 days later.

Zoom in: The long runway leading up to the ban gave providers and support organizations around the state time to prepare for the tougher restrictions while also treating as many patients as possible under the 15-week ban.

  • Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida extended hours and trained more workers to help patients navigate barriers to access, chief medical officer Robyn Schickler told Axios.
  • Providers are also telling patients to have pregnancy tests on hand and seek care as soon as possible if they think they may be pregnant.
  • Abortion funds have shored up partnerships with out-of-state support organizations to help coordinate care in states like Illinois, Maryland and Virginia.

Yes, but: Out-of-state providers and support organizations have already started to feel the ripple effects of absorbing patients from southern states.

  • The Chicago Abortion Fund anticipates needing $100,000 more a month to absorb the influx of southerners seeking care in Illinois, deputy director Qudsiyyah Shariyf told Axios. That's more than a third of the fund's typical monthly budget.

What they're saying: "It's hard to even think about," Shariyf said. "Just the number of requests that we are receiving and the costs not only for the abortion appointments but the travel needs."

What's next: Florida voters will have a chance to restore broader access in November.

Until then, advocates emphasized that abortion is still legal and are urging would-be patients to follow the same process they would've before today's change.

  • "If you think you're pregnant, go ahead and call us," Schickler of Planned Parenthood said. Even if you think you're beyond six weeks, "you can still come and we can help."
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