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A child who was the victim of incest was denied an abortion in Florida since the state instituted its 15-week ban in July, the local Planned Parenthood chapter told BuzzFeed News.
The GOP-controlled state legislature allowed exceptions to the 15-week ban in order to save the pregnant person’s life, prevent a serious injury, or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and violators of the law could face up to five years in prison.
Laura Goodhue, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, did not disclose the patient’s exact age or the state they traveled to receive an abortion, but she told BuzzFeed News they were in middle school. Goodhue had initially said another middle schooler who experienced incest was denied an abortion in Florida, then on Thursday clarified to BuzzFeed News that the cause of the second patient’s pregnancy was not confirmed.
In order to obtain the procedure, both of the young patients had to travel “at least two, three states away,” she said. Planned Parenthood helped arrange their travel, and they were accompanied by family members.
“The cruelty of forcing a very young person, who has already survived a horrible case of violence, to give birth, it just takes away their rights to bodily autonomy, and it is really turning a blind eye to what is happening in our society,” she said.
Democrats in Florida had tried to add exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking into the bill before the ban was in effect, but that effort was rejected by the Republican lawmakers in February.
The 15-week ban came as neighboring states like Georgia and Alabama have almost or completely banned abortion. Since June, Florida clinics near the state’s border have seen more than double the typical number of patients, Alexandra Mandado, president of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
At their clinics, Mandado said, they are also seeing an increase in young people seeking abortions, as well as an increase in survivors of domestic abuse, rape, and incest, “none of whom have any say of their own bodies if they are over 15 weeks pregnant,” she said. “We are seeing patients who did not know that they were past 15 weeks of pregnancy.”
Mandado told the story of a patient who had been experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Multiple doctors attributed her symptoms to long COVID. But after weeks of doubt, she finally took a pregnancy test and found that she was unexpectedly pregnant, Mandado said.
“When she arrived at Planned Parenthood, she learned that she was past the limit of our state’s abortion ban,” she said.
Dr. Shelly Tien, an OB-GYN who provides care in northern Florida and also spoke at the press conference, said many of the patients who have been turned away because they are past the 15-week mark are young or experiencing intimate partner violence.
“We are seeing this restriction have profound and terrible effects for some families in the most desperate of situations,” Tein said.
Tein added it was heartbreaking not to be able to provide care locally for the young incest survivor.
“To not be able to provide that service because of the restriction for a patient in such a terrible and violent situation is horrible,” Tien said. “This patient was sent to another health center in another state … but that is another delay and barrier that that young girl should not need to face.”
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