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AHCA Ordered To Pay Legal Fees To Planned Parenthood

An administrative law judge on Friday ordered the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to pay attorney's fees to Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, Inc., in a legal tussle over abortion.

At issue in the case is a form known as the Induced Termination of Pregnancy, or ITOP, which the state contended showed three clinics had "self-reported" having performed second-trimester abortions they were not licensed to perform.

After the state used the forms to argue that three Planned Parenthood health centers -- in Fort Myers, Naples and St. Petersburg -- had exceeded the scope of their licenses, Planned Parenthood challenged the use of the form as an unadopted rule, and Administrative Law Judge James H. Peterson, III found that AHCA "failed to demonstrate that it did not know and should not have known that the online ITOP reporting form was an unadopted rule."

The clinics' attorney, Julie Gallagher, said in an email Friday that AHCA responded to the judge's ruling on the form by doing what it should have done all along --- incorporating the form into a rule --- "and, accordingly, attorney's fees of $7,170.00 were awarded to Planned Parenthood, which AHCA must now pay."

Agency spokeswoman Mallory McManus said AHCA is reviewing the final order. Planned Parenthood also is pursuing a claim for attorney's fees in separate administrative complaints over some abortions performed by the clinics, which were likewise dismissed.

In a statement, Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said the group has maintained that AHCA had no evidence to cite the clinics.

"Despite AHCA already knowing this, they filed the charges and caused Planned Parenthood to devote considerable time and resources to frivolous and unwarranted charges, when such resources could have been devoted to providing additional care and services to the Floridians who rely on Planned Parenthood every day for health care."

Zdravecky said the organization would "push back against all politically-motivated attacks."