JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — New numbers from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, obtained first by Action News Jax, gives us the first glimpse into the impact of the state’s 15-week abortion ban, and what they reveal is not what most were expecting.
According to the report, the state is on track to see an increase in later-term abortions, specifically abortions carried out in the second trimester.
We spent the past 20 days requesting the numbers from AHCA, and while this is the most recent and up-to-date data available, it is preliminary data, so the numbers could change moving forward.
For the most part, the AHCA data reveals mostly what one might expect when a new abortion restriction takes effect.
Statewide, Florida is on track to see a 3.8% decrease in the total number of abortions compared to last year.
Duval County is looking at a potential 5.8% decrease.
Surprisingly, compared to last year’s data, second-trimester abortions are trending up.
If the numbers keep pace, the state could see an 11.5% increase over last year.
“We could see a very sharp drop off moving forward,” said Anthony Verdugo, head of the Florida Christian Family Coalition, which helped push for the 15-week ban.
Verdugo said there are a number of possible explanations for the spike in later-term abortions.
For one, second-trimester abortions aren’t limited to those carried out after 15 weeks.
State data includes 12-, 13- and 14-week abortions as second-trimester procedures.
There’s also ongoing litigation challenging the new law that he believes could be leading to a lack of enforcement or compliance.
“So once the dust is settled, I think that’s when you’re going to see clean numbers. Otherwise, right now, it’s just going to be guesswork,” said Verdugo.
But Kelly Flynn with A Woman’s Choice, a Jacksonville abortion provider, asserted clinics are complying.
“We had a site visit from AHCA already regarding the 15-week ban to make sure that we’re in compliance,” said Flynn.
We asked state Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), who sponsored the 15-week ban, what she made of the uptick in second-trimester abortions.
“I personally believe it is too early to compare with prior years,” Stargel said in an emailed statement. “Moreover, I have always maintained that laws and legal opinions cannot and will not immediately change hearts and minds influenced by decades of an anti-life culture.”
Flynn agreed with the sentiment that it’s too early to draw conclusions from the new data, adding she anticipates the full extent of the ban’s impact will be seen in future reports.
“However, the patients that are citizens of Florida that live in Florida, if they can’t have it here they’re going to go somewhere else. So, basically, you can take that statistic and you can add it to a different state,” said Flynn.
There was also one more surprising statistic in the report.
While Florida clinics have reported seeing a notable increase in patients traveling to Florida from neighboring states with more restrictive laws, the latest data shows virtually no change in the number of out-of-state patients receiving abortions in Florida compared to last year.
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