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Out-of-state patients fuel an increase in abortions in Florida

More patients from out-of-state came to Florida for abortions last year as other states in the region enacted near-total bans on the procedure.
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
More patients from out-of-state came to Florida for abortions last year as other states in the region enacted near-total bans on the procedure.

Despite implementing a 15-week ban on the procedure, Florida still has one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the Southeast. Advocates say changing that could be "devastating" to the region.

More people got abortions in Florida last year despite the state's decision to ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with people traveling from out of state largely fueling the increase

Agency for Health Care Administration data shows 82,192 people got abortions in Florida in 2022, up from 79,817 in 2021.

Of those, 6,708 people came from out-of-state, a 38% increase from the year before.

Groups like the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund say they have seen a lot change since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer and states including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, among others, implemented six-week or near-total bans on the procedure.

The organization helps people who can’t afford abortions or face logistical barriers access safe care. It primarily serves the Tampa Bay region, but has shifted to include people from around Florida and out-of-state as demand has increased, explained board member McKenna Kelley.

“We went from basically no people coming in from other states to roughly 30 people per month,” estimates McKenna, adding that not everyone who receives assistance from the fund elects to share their location.

The fund is also helping Floridians affected by the state's 15-week ban travel to places where they can get the procedure further along in pregnancy. Kelley says the group is trying to recruit more volunteers and raise money to meet demand.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signaled he would sign a six-week ban if the legislature passes one.

Kelley says that would add significant barriers to women, transgender and nonbinary people in Florida and the Southeast.

“That likely means they have to get on a plane, they have to take more days off of work, pay for hotels, secure child care for longer,” Kelley said. “It would be devastating for Florida and for our neighboring states.”

No abortion bills have been filed yet ahead of the Florida legislative session, which begins on 7, but some Republican leaders and anti-abortion activists have already expressed interest in advancing the issue this year.

Lawmakers introduced the bill for the 15-week ban on the first day of last year’s session. That law faces ongoing legal challenges, and some lawmakers have said they’re waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to rule on that case before passing further restrictions.

Kelley urges anyone who needs help getting an abortion in Florida or out-of-state to contact the fund or another reproductive rights organization.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.