‘Confusion and terror’ set in for pregnant women after ruling upholds Florida abortion ban

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‘Confusion and terror’ set in for pregnant women after ruling upholds Florida abortion ban

MIAMI — It was a busy day, as usual, at the Planned Parenthood clinic tucked away in the Golden Glades area of Miami two days after Florida’s Supreme Court upheld a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. What made the day unusual was many women were alarmed and “freaking out” over the ban.

“I had a patient an hour ago, who was in her eighth or ninth week of pregnancy, concerned that we were going to turn her away,” said Dr. Chelsea Daniels, a physician with Planned Parenthood. “There is a lot of confusion and terror.”

Daniels has been shuttling between procedures and media interviews in her office since news of the ban, which takes effect May 1, broke Monday.

Florida was one of the last states in the Southeastern part of the country where abortion was still largely accessible — providing the service not just to Floridians, but also to those living in nearby states where abortion had already been limited or banned.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion access, over 9,300 people traveled to Florida from other states to get abortion care last year — more than double the number in 2020.

But of the 80,000 abortions that took place in the state last year, the majority were still for Floridians, Daniels said.

Now, those who are pregnant are feeling confusion and uncertainty.

A 20-year-old abortion seeker, who was waiting to be seen by a doctor at Planned Parenthood and requested anonymity, told NBC News that even though the new law allows abortions for cases of rape or incest, many women will still be “forced to care for a child they don’t want.”

“Most people don’t want to go to the police and show proof they were being raped,” she said.

A 29-year-old woman at the clinic, who also requested to remain anonymous, was recovering from the procedure and said she had just heard news of the ban the day before.

“I was puzzled,” she said. “I couldn’t understand how this could happen.”

Daniels said the vast majority of patients who seek services at Planned Parenthood are past six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which many do not yet realize they are pregnant. The average patient is in their late 20s or early 30s, usually has children already, and often has a partner.

“These bans are particularly bad for certain people, and I think that legislators and judges know this,” said Daniels. “If you are resourced and privileged enough to buy a ticket and fly three hours to Virginia and Maryland, you’re still going to be able to access an abortion. But there are a lot of people who do not have that kind of resource and privilege. So this particularly affects Black and brown people, undocumented people, people with language barriers, people with disabilities, people who don’t have the means to get care elsewhere.”

Since nearby states have passed similar bans, the closest state now to offer abortion beyond six weeks is North Carolina — but even there it’s only legal up to 12 weeks. Beyond that, Virginia would be the next closest state where abortions are legal up to 26 weeks.

Providers worry there is not adequate infrastructure in Northern and Western states to support the large swath of the country that has restricted abortions.

“It’s a really devastating time for abortion seekers as they try to secure safe and legal abortions. And it’s going to be critical to continue lifting up the fact that there are options,” said Lillian Tamayo, who served as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida for 22 years.

Tamayo is a spokesperson for Charley, a chatbot launched in 2023 by former Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and former chief strategy officer Tom Subak that provides up-to-date information in English or Spanish about abortion options for every ZIP code in the U.S., including how to obtain pills by mail, and which can be accessed anonymously.

Those who support fewer restrictions on abortion see hope that the tide will turn in favor of abortion access come November. Florida’s Supreme Court also ruled Monday that Florida voters can decide via a ballot measure whether to invalidate the six-week ban by barring restrictions on abortion before fetal viability — considered to be at about the 24th week of pregnancy — and making this part of the state’s constitution.

Some Democrats see the abortion ballot measure as an opening in a state considered solidly red and where national Democrats and donors had not been spending money. After the abortion ruling, the Biden campaign said Florida is winnable and included Florida in an ad buy criticizing Trump on abortion rights.

Since the landmark U.S. Supreme court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, voters have sided with abortion rights in seven states, including right-leaning Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio. Floridians will be grappling with the strict, newly implemented abortion regulations in the months leading up to the election.

Cheyenne Clelland, a University of Miami pre-medicine student, said that while the ban was not a big topic of conversation among students she knows on campus, she said having abortion on the ballot motivates her even more to vote in November.

“I would not get an abortion myself, being Christian,” said Clelland. “But putting a ban on it impacts our rights. We’re going backwards. There should be a choice.”

Democrats will have to spend money in Florida to remind voters of the ballot measure come November and motivate them to turn out. Following Monday’s court rulings, there weren’t any significant protests in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and one that traditionally leans blue. Gov. Ron DeSantis became the first Republican governor to win the county in 20 years.

Still, people expressed concern over the decision.

“Abortion is health care,” said Lois Loor, a 24-year-old who works at a spa. “It should be talked about with a heath care provider and not decided by the state.”

Carmen Sesin

Carmen Sesin is a reporter for NBC News based in Miami, Florida.

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