A Tallahassee abortion clinic will likely face bankruptcy and be put out of business if a state agency goes through with its assessment of a $193,000 sanction.
The hefty fine emerged after the Center of Orlando for Women became confused by the start date of a state law requiring a 24-hour delay before pregnancy termination.
“Respondent makes this election of rights and states that it disputes material allegations of fact in or relevant to the administrative complaint and wishes to have a formal hearing,” Attorney Julie Gallagher, who is representing the abortion clinic, wrote in her response to the allegations.
The state law requiring a 24-hour waiting period was finalized in April. However, the Center of Orlando for Women tried and failed to secure clarification from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) as to its date of effectiveness, according to the Notice of Appearance and Election of Rights filed by the abortion clinic.
“Respondent alleges as ultimate facts in part that it acted in good faith and attempted to comply with the law as evidenced by the numerous attempts to discover the effective date of the change only to be told by an AHCA staff members that they couldn’t say nothing other than ‘AHCA is aware of the ruling,’” Gallagher stated in the notice.
Although it was signed into law in 2015, the 24-hour delay requirement had been on appeal for seven years until the law was upheld in April by Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey.
Out of 217 visits to the Center of Orlando for Women, 193 showed terminations were performed on the same day of the initial clinic and physician visit, according to the AHCA administrative complaint filed with the agency clerk on July 14.
AHCA calculated the $193,000 fine based on the 193 abortions that did not meet the requirement for a 24-hour delay before the procedure is performed. The law allows for a $1,000 fine for each violation.
“In an interview with the Clinic Manager on May 11, 2022, at 1:45 p.m., she stated that the Clinic was aware of the 24-hour wait time for patients but was unaware when the 24-hour wait time was to commence,” wrote AHCA attorney Gisela Iglesias in the complaint.
The Center of Orlando for Women, through counsel, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but disputes the allegations and states that the $193,000 fine will likely lead to its bankruptcy and “put it out of business.”