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Medication abortion and other reproductive care is still legal in Florida. Here's how to access it

box of mifepristone on a table. Pamphlets and pill bottles in the background.
Robin Marty
Abortion is still legal in Florida despite the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Still, state law creates hurdles to accessing abortions, including ones induced with medications more readily available in other states.

Abortion pills and other services are legal in Florida despite the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. But state law makes it harder to access them than in some other states.

Doctors with Planned Parenthood want Floridians to know they are still providing reproductive health care in the state, including abortions.

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, calls to Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida have “skyrocketed,” according to Chief Medical Officer Robyn Schickler.

“Patients are calling, if they have appointments, seeing if they still have appointments, calling to see if we’re going to close,” Dr. Schickler said. “And then, even patients that were worried about birth control visits like, ‘What does this mean about birth control, can I still get my birth control?’ So a lot of confusion and hectic chaos.”

CONTINUE READING: Find resources for accessing reproductive health care below

Schickler stressed patients can still come to Planned Parenthood to access birth control and safe abortions. The group is one of several organizations fighting to block a state law from going into effect on Friday that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

But even if a judge allows it to move forward, Schickler said that won't affect access for those in earlier stages of pregnancy.

One option for such people is medication abortion. This procedure involves taking pills to safely terminate a pregnancy during the first 10 weeks (up to 11 weeks). Florida allows them, but creates some barriers to access.

Dr. Schickler breaks down the basics of what patients can expect:

What does medication abortion involve?

Medication abortion consists of two separate steps. One of the pills you have to take in front of a physician in the state of Florida, this pill is called mifepristone. This one works to block the hormone that maintains the pregnancy.

And then anywhere from six to 48 hours after taking that pill, the patient takes another set of pills called misoprostol. That actually causes the uterus or the womb to contract and push any pregnancy tissue out and that completes the abortion.

What steps would a pregnant person interested in obtaining the procedure in Florida have to take?

They can call Planned Parenthood or go online and make an appointment. The appointment that’s going to be made at first, is a counseling-only appointment. Currently in Florida, we have a 24-hour mandatory delay which means you have to talk to a doctor at least 24 hours before your abortion.

So the first visit would be a counseling appointment, you come get your ultrasound, get education about the medication, talk to a doctor, sign consents and then we set you up for your second visit when you would actually take that mifepristone, or that first pill.

Then patients can take the second drug on their own at home. What happens after that?

Anytime someone has an abortion with medication, there is a follow-up of some sort. We offer an ultrasound follow-up in 1-2 weeks where we look and make sure that the abortion is complete and the uterus is empty.

The other, also very good way to follow up, is just by high sensitivity pregnancy test. The patient takes that home and takes it four weeks after the abortion. We set up a call with the patient one week from when they take the pill with us, just to make sure they did okay and to identify any problems if we need to bring them back, and then we call them back at that four-week mark to check if the pregnancy test is negative.

In some other states patients can get the medication through telehealth visits with doctors and receive the pills by mail. Why doesn’t Florida allow that?

It is definitely easier and it is very safe and effective to take it [mifepristone] at home. But it is Florida state law that a patient takes it in front, like face-to-face, with a doctor, and so we are unable to provide the mifepristone via telehealth.

What resources are available for people who need help with transportation or other access barriers?

You can certainly contact us [Planned Parenthood] and we can help direct you to places you need to go. Definitely local abortion funds. I’m based in Tampa, and Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is incredibly helpful. But you can also call us and we’ll help direct you.

Resources for help

Visit Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida's website for services and appointments or contact the regional call center: 941-567-3800.

Planned Parenthood national created an FAQ page after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade to provide guidance on the current status of reproductive rights.

Reach out to the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund's intake line for financial or logistical assistance: 727-314-3956 or learn more on its website.

You can find other abortion funds around the country here.

Several organizations including Plan C, Reprocare and AidAccess, among others, support people with self-managed abortions. This involves pregnant people obtaining and using the pills without the supervision of a doctor. Experts say it removes access barriers for people without the means to go to a clinic, and can be safe and effective. But it can come with legal risks in Florida and other states with abortion restrictions.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.