Firsthand accounts expose the growing crisis facing patients, families and health care providers
TALLAHASSEE — Three and a half months after the fall of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood health care providers shared firsthand accounts about the deluge of patients flocking to Florida from surrounding states, many in dire circumstances. Survivors of sexual assault and incest, patients in medical distress and children so destitute they arrive barefoot have accounted for a caseload more than double previous peaks at Florida Planned Parenthood clinics along the border with other southern states. Those who arrive seeking care past 15 weeks have had to be turned away due to the recent passage of Florida’s abortion ban, HB 5.
“These are the real life stories of families that clearly show the tragic consequences of banning abortion,” said Alexandra Mandado, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. “The sad fact is, today, it is not safe to be pregnant in this country.”
Planned Parenthood health centers in Jacksonville and Tallahassee have been inundated, going from serving 30-40 patients a day to 80 or more, and increasingly those patients are from neighboring states. As a result, people seeking abortions face a mounting crisis in Florida and much of the country.
“We recently had a middle-school aged patient that had traveled with her family from several states away. She had no shoes due to the difficult economic circumstances she was living in — many of our patients are living in poverty or near-poverty conditions,” said Dr. Shelly Tien. “Immediately, one of the staff went to purchase shoes and other things she and her family needed for their stay. Sadly, she was past 15 weeks of pregnancy, and we could not serve her in Florida. This sweet, innocent girl’s face is seared into my memory. The more we talked the more scared and frustrated she became. Trying to find the words to calm her and support her when I knew I couldn’t help her, I have to tell you, that was extraordinarily difficult.”
Since going into effect on July 1, Florida’s 15-week abortion ban has forced people in need of essential abortion services to either flee the state to attempt to access care or to carry pregnancies against their will. For each of these patients, the consequences are life-altering. Those who are denied abortion face poorer health outcomes and worse economic outcomes for their children — carrying the impact across generations. This harm falls disproportionately on Black and Latino people, who already struggle to access health care because of racism in our society and medical system. The consequences could even be deadly, especially for Black women, who are nearly three times more likely than white women to die during or shortly after childbirth because of medical racism.
“In addition to managing a health center, we now have to be counselors, providers of basic human needs like clothing and food, and even travel agents,” said Ina McDonald, health center manager of the Tallahassee clinic. “Finding lodging for our out-of-state patients has become a daily responsibility.”
For over 50 years, building healthy communities has been Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida’s mission. Our health care services include lifesaving cancer screenings, breast health care, well-person exams, contraceptive services, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, transgender care and abortion services. Over 90% of the services we offer are preventive and help individuals, families, and communities stay healthy. Visit our website at www.ppsenfl.org.