Breaking News
More () »

Planned Parenthood now double booking to treat Florida patients before 15-week abortion ban

The chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Southwest and Central Florida said patients are calling concerned if they can receive services before laws change.

TAMPA, Fla — Planned Parenthood locations in the Tampa Bay region are seeing an increase in calls and are scheduling at least 40 percent more abortion consults and procedures this week. 

This is ahead of a new Florida law that goes into effect on July 1. Florida currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks. The new law prohibits abortions beyond 15 weeks except to save the life or prevent physical harm to the pregnant woman or in cases of a "fatal fetal abnormality." 

It mirrors the Mississippi law that conservative justices used to overturn Roe v. Wade.

RELATED: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

10 Tampa Bay's Malique Rankin spoke with Dr. Robyn Scheckler, the Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood Southwest and Central Florida. She explained what the clinics' operations have looked like since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Q: How has the last week looked like for you and for staff at your clinics?

"So it's been pretty hectic at our clinics, both on the admin side and in the health center side. So, administratively, we've just been in crisis management mode, getting all the operational changes we need both to bring in patients who may be coming in from out of state but then also to operationalize the upcoming 15-week ban. So we've got both of those. And then our health centers, we are squeezing in patients pretty much everywhere that we can in anticipation of the 15-week ban and we are having, you know, record number of patients calling making appointments." 

Q: When patients are calling, can you describe the nature of their mentality?

"Yeah, there's a lot of fear, fear, and uncertainty. When they're calling they're not sure if they can be seen with us. They're not sure if they're if they already have an appointment. They're calling and making sure they can still come. So a lot of fear, a lot of disbelief. These conversations that our call center is having with patients, they're long, and our wait times went up because it's taking longer to talk to patients and to reassure them that we are still able to see them."

Q: How are conversations with patients shifting as the abortions you can offer will soon shift, too?

"When we have patients calling in that think they may be past that 15-week mark, either when they come in or they're getting close to it, we are talking to them about the ban going into effect July 1 and telling them we need to see you now... It's like a frantic phone call with them because patients may not know that it was a thing — that the ban was happening and they have to get things together to be able to come in this week. We have the 24-hour delay in effect, so they'd have to come two days, hopefully, two days in a row. So they've got to figure out work, child care. So they're very frantic phone calls"

Q: Planned Parenthood offers far more than just abortions. How has this past week impacted your patients seeking care for everything else you offer?

"Yeah, so thankfully, this has not affected birth control, but we actually have been hearing concerns from patients both calling or coming in. You know, 'Am I still able to get my birth control? What does this mean? Does this mean like I might not be able to?' And thankfully we're able to proceed with those services and it wouldn't change. But there's definitely a concern there from our patients."

RELATED: Two major drugstore chains limiting purchases of emergency contraception

Q: Are patients receiving care for services outside of abortion impacted by the scheduling changes made for those getting abortions?

"So, fortunately, the way our health centers are run, they're separated. Family Planning Centers and centers that do abortions. So we haven't really had to do that in the past few weeks, thankfully. So we're able to keep our family planning appointments. Really, we've been forced to go through the schedules of the abortion patients and triage patients through there so if it looks like they're in the second trimester, if it looks like they're getting close, bringing them in sooner, and having to make a decision of, you know, the person who's six weeks, we say we can't get you in for another couple of weeks because we have to get in someone who's 16. So, this varies. We're doing this very strange, awful triaging process now."

Q: With the current time crunch, is there concern patients seeking abortion are forced to think differently about their decision?

"You know, that's an interesting point. I don't think so. I've been doing this for several years now, providing specifically abortion and family planning care. Patients know when they make the appointment. Rarely do we have people that are unsure, and of course, we have them take their time if that's the case, but patients have thought about this already. And they know when they're coming in. So even squeezing them in, like [if] the patient's not sure, we'll talk to them about it. We won't proceed if this doesn't seem like the right decision for them. But the vast majority are fairly sure when they call."

Q: Are you seeing more patients this week than typical for abortion procedures?

"Yes, so our schedules are a combination of our day-one counseling and then day-two abortion, medication or surgical. On a usual day, the total number we see is 30 to 35. Twenty-something of that is counseling. The rest are abortion. Some of our busiest centers. We're looking at 50 or so appointments each day [this week] with you know, like 30 counseling and then 20 or so abortions."

Q: What does the process look like to get an abortion in Florida?

"Currently in Florida, we have a 24-hour mandatory delay, which means that you have to be counseled by a physician at least 24 hours before we can do your abortion. So when a patient makes an appointment, it's a counseling appointment only. So they come in, they get an ultrasound, they get educated. We do talk to them about all of their options, not only abortion, and if they choose to proceed with an abortion, we educate them on whichever method they choose. 

"And then as the physician, we go in, there's some state-mandated language that we do have to review and we signed some consents. We scheduled the patient for their second visit, which, depending on their gestational age, or how far along they are, would be the next day if we have openings."

Before You Leave, Check This Out