Where Can Florida Women Seek Abortions Beyond the 6-Week Mark?

As Florida implemented its six-week abortion ban recently, clinics in several neighboring Southern and mid-Atlantic states have sprung into action, anticipating the influx of women seeking services no longer available in their home state.

Healthcare providers in North Carolina, positioned just three states north of Florida, are scrambling to expand services and minimize wait times.

“We’re already seeing appointments,” said Katherine Farris, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “We have appointments scheduled with patients who were unable to access care in the final days of April in Florida.”

This response reflects a broader trend across the United States. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, prompting more than 20 states to enact laws restricting or outright banning abortions, states with more lenient regulations have taken steps to accommodate women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

In Democratic-controlled states, efforts have been made to facilitate access for out-of-state women, including laws safeguarding healthcare providers from investigation for offering abortion services to individuals from states with bans. These measures include authorizing providers to prescribe abortion pills via telehealth, a common method of abortion.

States like California, New Mexico, and Oregon have allocated public funds to enhance abortion accessibility.

With Florida recording over 84,000 abortions in 2023, and approximately 14,700 abortions reported as of April 1 this year, many women may need to consider traveling out of state for the procedure.

“Patients will travel when they’re desperate to get an abortion,” noted Mara Buchbinder, a social medicine professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At one time, Florida served as a destination for women from neighboring states with restrictions. However, access has gradually diminished. In anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned, Florida passed a 15-week ban in April 2022, followed by a six-week abortion ban in 2023, which recently went into effect after being upheld by the state Supreme Court.

While a referendum in November could potentially reverse the ban, until then, abortion advocacy groups in Florida will need to coordinate trips out of state for many women seeking services.

South Florida, now the furthest from a legal abortion provider for pregnancies beyond six weeks among densely populated areas in the U.S., may see the average cost per abortion increase substantially.

Daniela Martins, a board member at the Women’s Emergency Network, anticipates assisting women in reaching states like Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., for abortion services. However, raising sufficient funds to honor this commitment poses a challenge.

Similarly, The Brigid Alliance, which aids women seeking abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, is preparing for increased demand, expanding its logistical support team and partnering with clinics in Puerto Rico.

North Carolina is expected to see a significant influx of patients, with 32% of abortions provided at the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics already being for out-of-state patients.

However, North Carolina’s own laws pose challenges, requiring two in-person visits to a provider 72 hours apart for abortions up to 12 weeks. This could extend the procedure to a weeklong process.

Providers fear the arrival of new patients will lengthen wait times, currently ranging from five to 20 days. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic is working to mitigate this by expanding abortion services and adjusting schedules at North Carolina clinics.

While efforts are being made to accommodate the increased demand, providers like Farris have to turn away patients who exceed the state’s 12-week limit, often referring them to neighboring states like Virginia and Maryland.

Despite challenges, organizations like the Carolina Abortion Fund continue to provide assistance, even as call volumes surge following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Similarly, A Preferred Women’s Health Center in North Carolina is experiencing a high volume of calls, mostly from women in Southern states, indicative of the challenges ahead as access to abortion becomes increasingly restricted.

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