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Abortion in Florida will be limited to the first 6 weeks of pregnancy starting May 1


Florida is about to ban nearly all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, down from the 15 weeks allowed now. The new law takes effect Wednesday, and Regan McCarthy of member Station WFSU reports that people on both sides of the issues are getting ready.

CHELSEA DANIELS: Every day feels like another punch to the gut.

REGAN MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Chelsea Daniels is a staff physician with Planned Parenthood in South Florida.

DANIELS: Every day that I'm in clinic and seeing patients and having to inform them about this ban and just watch the panic on their face, it makes you realize just how bans like this are so, so, so targeted and can change the trajectory of someone's life.

MCCARTHY: Florida requires people to wait at least 24 hours between their first consultation and an abortion. And sometimes they don't even know they're pregnant for weeks. Now, in these last days before the six-week ban, appointments are filling up, and staff are working overtime.

DANIELS: We recognize, as health care providers and medical professionals, that this is essential medical care. So we're going to do everything we can to provide that care for as long as we're legally allowed to do so.

MCCARTHY: The six-week ban will allow exceptions for rape or fatal fetal abnormalities. And like the current 15-week ban, it allows abortions in order to save the life of the pregnant person. But some doctors have already been hesitant to provide that care, and Daniels worries the new rule will make that even harder.

DANIELS: Every day I'm seeing someone who is - I'm sitting there, trying to do the calculus of, I think that this pregnancy is putting my patient's life at risk, but they live in Florida. And so what are my options?

MCCARTHY: One option will be for people to travel out of state.

MCKENNA KELLEY: Our director of case management has kind of become a travel agent at this point.

MCCARTHY: McKenna Kelley is a board member with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund. They help with things like hotel rooms, plane tickets, the cost of the appointment at an out-of-state clinic. She says they're trying to raise money and expand their network of clinics ahead of May 1.

KELLEY: We're not going to be able to help everyone, and that goes for every fund, and that's really unfortunate. And that's what we want people to understand.

MCCARTHY: Meanwhile, people on the other side of the issue are also scrambling to prepare for the six-week ban, like at Bundle of Hope Adoption Family Services in North Florida.

GLENDA RICHARDSON CARR: Every day that we wake up, we never know what to expect from day to day. So we're always on our toes, ready to go.

MCCARTHY: Glenda Richardson Carr is the group's founder and CEO. She considers herself pro-life and agrees with the six-week ban. She says her goal is to support and empower birth mothers who are trying to figure out their options under the new law.

RICHARDSON CARR = FOUNDER, BUNDLE OF HOPE ADOPTION FAMILY SERVICES: I would ask them to give me a chance to show them the option of how parenting would look in their future and how adoption would look in their future, and we work it out together.

MCCARTHY: Following the overturn of federal rights to abortion in Roe v. Wade, Richardson Carr says she's seen more birth mothers seeking help with adoption. And she expects to see even more once the ban goes into place and says that adoption agencies around the country have lists of families waiting to adopt.

RICHARDSON CARR = FOUNDER, BUNDLE OF HOPE ADOPTION FAMILY SERVICES: I have no doubt we could take every birth mom that would like to place a child for adoption and find them a family, absolutely.

MCCARTHY: May 1 will not end the abortion battle. Andrew Shirvell heads the group Florida Voice for the Unborn. He'd like to see an end to all abortion in Florida and sees this as a step in that direction.

ANDREW SHIRVELL: I'm hoping and praying that at least half the abortion centers in the State of Florida will effectively shut down.

MCCARTHY: But it's not clear how long the new ban will last. In November Florida voters will decide whether to enshrine the right to abortion in the State Constitution. People on both sides are gearing up for a vote they say will impact the abortion landscape throughout the Southeast. Here's Dr. Chelsea Daniels at Planned Parenthood in Miami.

DANIELS: I can't wait for November. I hope that everyone listening can't wait for November and feels really motivated to go out, and we'll show them who's boss in just a few months.

MCCARTHY: To pass, the amendment will need approval from 60% of the people who turn out at the polls.

For NPR News, I'm Regan McCarthy in Tallahassee.

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