TAMPA, Fla. — Florida’s new restrictive abortion law has many physicians questioning whether they’ll stay in the Tampa Bay area, especially if performing the procedure means risking their license, career and maybe even their freedom.
Within hours of Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the new six-week abortion law, Dr. Rachel Rapkin was holding a yard sale in front of her home in Tampa.
She and her husband, both obstetrician-gynecologists, are leaving the state, citing the state’s new restrictive abortion laws.
“We have two other partners right now who have left Florida. We’re in the process of leaving Florida,” Rapkin said. "I see a lot of the recruitment activity taking place, trying to recruit new OB/GYNs, specifically to Florida, and people are saying 'I would never go there.'”
The Florida Medical Association recently found the state has a shortage of around 500 obstetrician-gynecologists.
Rapkin predicts that number will now rise sharply, leaving a statewide void in women’s health care.
“We already have maternity deserts -- places in the state where there are no OB providers,” Rapkin said. “Absolutely that’s going to get worse.”
At Planned Parenthood, they say it’s already having an impact as women learn they are no longer eligible to terminate their pregnancies.
“Our patients, equally, have been confused and devastating and struggling,” Dr. Samantha Deans said. “Those are some of the hardest conversations that I have to have with patients.”
Doctors say without the ability to perform abortions, they cannot provide adequate healthcare, especially when complications like miscarriages occur beyond 15 weeks.
“I need to feel like I can provide safe health care for my patients and that I can provide the necessary training for the next generation of OB/GYNs. We are very far from that right now,” Rapkin said.
Rapkin says it won’t be long before expecting mothers find there aren’t enough physicians to deliver babies, and fewer doctors willing to train in Florida since they can’t legally acquire the skills needed to safely terminate pregnancies even when medically necessary.
Consequences, unforeseen by some, but all too predictable to others.
“We all knew this was going to happen. We all figured this was going to happen,” Rapkin said. “But to make it happen so quickly just feels cruel.”