Doctor D. has never had so much work to do.
The abortion clinic where she practices in Jacksonville, Fla., has been inundated with patients from neighboring states, who have imposed new restrictions on the procedure since a historic US Supreme Court ruling in June.
“I used to see about 25 patients on a typical clinic day, now I see about 45,” the doctor said. “There is so much demand.”
She asked that her name be withheld because of the sometimes violent opposition to her work — many abortion providers have received death threats.
While Florida has reduced its window for abortions to the 15th week of pregnancy – it used to be 24 weeks – the state’s laws are still among the most permissive in the Southeastern United States.
Other Republican-led states in the region — including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia — have almost entirely banned the practice or shortened the window to six weeks to address the Supreme Court’s stunning reversal of statewide abortion rights.
Since then, numerous women have traveled to Florida to clinics like the one where Dr. D works, which is owned by Planned Parenthood, the largest US provider of reproductive services.
“We’re in an emergency right now,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood affiliates. “I would call it a public health emergency.”
Planned Florida parenting clinics have opened their doors on weekends and extended hours, with 12-hour days at some clinics, to cope with the influx of patients from abroad, most of them from Georgia, Alabama or Texas.
The organization is trying to hire nine additional doctors, some of whom come a few days a week from neighboring states where they can no longer work, Goodhue said.
In the kitchen of her Jacksonville clinic, Doctor D. takes a short break between patients. She says her work allows her to see first-hand the impact of restrictive laws in neighboring states.
“It’s very disheartening to see all this,” said the 33-year-old doctor.
– New obstacles, new prohibitions –
Patients from other states must take several days off when coming to Florida for abortions. The state’s new law requires them to have two appointments at least 24 hours apart before undergoing the procedure, the doctor explained.
In addition, there are travel and accommodation costs and, in many cases, the care of the children.
In addition, there is the new abortion ban after 15 weeks.
“If they come here at the time and we do an ultrasound and see that they are older than 15 weeks, unfortunately we cannot help them here and have to give them resources to go to other states,” the doctor said. “And that only prolongs their journey.”
About 280 miles (450 kilometers) south of Jacksonville, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in West Palm Beach, Jasmine is about to have a surgical abortion.
Jasmine, who is not the 23-year-old’s real name, became pregnant after the condom of a man she had been dating for three months broke. She ordered a morning after pill, but it was too late.
Jasmine agonized over her decision but eventually decided to have an abortion so she could finish her university studies.
“I know it’s what’s best for me, even if it’s a hard decision,” she said. “A night of mistakes doesn’t have to result in a permanent change in life.”
As a Florida resident, Jasmine said she couldn’t imagine the difficult experience of those who have to travel from another state to have an abortion.
But she said the Supreme Court ruling and the spate of legislative changes that have been enacted since then have brought unspeakable stress.
“In Florida, you have up to 15 weeks and that could have changed at any time, like the other states,” she said. “It was just a lot of crying and nervousness.”
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