Orlando abortion clinic faces bankruptcy and fines for violating 24-hour wait rule

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One of Florida’s 55 abortion providers has said it could face bankruptcy due to proposed fines from the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. This is a 2015 law and a 2022 court ruling, now requiring a 24-hour waiting time after receiving a mandatory in-person counseling session, before a patient can have an abortion .

Now an Orlando women’s clinic is facing fines of $193,000 for 193 abortions performed that the AHCA says occurred without the required 24-hour restraint. The suspension was ordered by a 2nd Circuit judge in March.

The Center of Orlando For Women is accused, by the AHCA in its motion to the Florida Administrative Hearing Division, of performing the abortions without the 24-hour period despite a judge’s ruling enacting the time limit. The AHCA is the part of the Florida government that regulates and tracks abortions.

The clinic, in response, said instead that it had contacted the AHCA to request an effective date for the ruling order and had not received one.

The AHCA filed its motion for the fines on July 18. The motion accused the Center of Orlando For Women of carrying out the procedures without the 24-hour deadline from April 26 to May 7. As of May 10, compliance with the 24-hour period was reported, according to the AHCA’s review of clinical records.

Florida laws allow up to $1,000 in fines per count of violation, which the AHCA pursues.

In a deposit on July 29, attorney Julie Gallagher, representing the Center of Orlando For Women, said the fine of more than $190,000 would “likely bankrupt” their client, forcing them out of business. Additionally, Gallagher’s response to the AHCA petition details the Center of Orlando For Women’s attempts to coordinate with the AHCA to comply with the effective date of the 24-hour rule.

Disputing the facts of the AHCA petition, Gallagher wrote that they began contacting the regulatory agency from April 14, they were told the agency had no information available regarding a release date. the rule came into effect, and that the AHCA itself had “not been notified that it is in effect” since April 19.

Further calls to the AHCA did not provide the details requested by the Center of Orlando For Women, according to Gallagher’s filing, but that the agency had told the clinic on April 27 that it “should follow up with the 24 hour rule. Continued attempts to reach the AHCA failed according to Gallagher. Information about the rule was not present on the AHCA website in May, and to the clinic’s knowledge, Gallagher’s filing indicates it still was not.

That said, Gallagher has not “updated its website to reflect changes to reporting requirements imposed on abortion clinics by a new law that took effect July 1, 2022.”

The the agency reviewed the clinic’s records for the Center of Orlando For Women as of May 11, finding that of 217 patient visits to the clinic, 193 underwent abortion procedures “on the same day as the initial clinic and doctor visit; therefore, failing to meet the “24 hour waiting time” required before an abortion can be performed in Florida.

Janet E. Fishburn