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Florida abortion clinic faces $193,000 fine for breaking law

The Center of Orlando for Women is fighting a $193,000 fine from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration after it was discovered the Orlando abortion clinic had allegedly performed abortions without respecting a law that requires a 24-hour waiting period.

The law, passed in 2015, was stalled in court until April 25, when a Leon County circuit judge upheld it. It requires people wanting an abortion to come to a clinic in person to receive information, then make an additional appointment at least 24 hours later to get the procedure.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration determined during an investigation that from April 26 to May 11, the clinic had 217 patients coming for abortions. Of those patients, 193 underwent the procedure on the same day as their initial visit, and the AHCA charges $1,000 per violation.

A response filed July 29 by the clinic’s attorney, Julie Gallagher, says the fine “would likely result in bankruptcy [the clinic] and bankrupt it.

According to 2021 Data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the Center of Orlando for Women – which treats patients as the Orlando Women’s Center – is one of two clinics in Orange County licensed to perform first- and second-trimester abortions and one of five in Florida central.

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The clinic is fighting against the fine proposed in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, where clinic executives say they weren’t told the law was in effect when they broke it.

“The Respondent had heard of the decision allowing the 24-hour waiting period to come into effect, but could not find any information on when the new requirement would come into effect which imposed a significant change in the way abortions are provided in Florida,” the petition reads. .

The clinic’s response alleges that it contacted the state agency in April and May and was repeatedly told by several people that the AHCA could not give them an effective date or share. information about the law. The clinic was urged to check the AHCA website for updates, Gallagher said.

Gallagher argues that the ACHA should not try to impose the maximum penalty, $1,000 per violation, and should instead fine clinics a lower amount.

“They have a lot of cases going on where they are trying to impose heavy fines. And in our case we say that it is impossible for the fine to be so high [is] because the client didn’t know, and the client was trying – almost daily – to find out from the ACHA when the new law would come into effect and could never get any information,” Gallagher said.

Two other cases against abortion clinics in Miami-Dade County have been filed in recent weeks, according to the Florida Press Service. These cases also allege violations of the 24-hour waiting period law, but on much smaller scales. One clinic, A GYN Diagnostic Center, is fighting a $41,000 fine while another, Doctor’s Office for Women, is fighting a $3,000 fine.

ccatherman@orlandosentinel.com; @CECatherman Twitter