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Scott Administration Intensifies Battle Over Planned Parenthood Clinics in Florida

| August 19, 2015

planned parenthood florida

Under attack. (Fibonacci Blue)

A fight between Planned Parenthood and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration escalated on Wednesday, with state health officials saying three clinics can continue to operate but remain under investigation for allegedly performing illegal second-trimester abortions.

Amid news reports that the Agency for Health Care Administration had backed down after being sued by the clinics, the agency released a letter from its top lawyer saying that the clinics were still under investigation and had broken the law.

“Your client, Planned Parenthood, continues to misrepresent to the media that AHCA has changed its position, and Planned Parenthood clinics in Florida may now provide unauthorized second trimester abortions. This is false,” AHCA General Counsel Stuart Williams wrote to the clinics’ lawyer, Julie Gallagher, on Wednesday.

Based on information provided by the clinics to health officials, “abortions were illegally performed during the second trimester at the three clinics at issue, and our investigation will continue,” Williams wrote. “Please advise your client to govern itself accordingly.”

The agency released Williams’ letter hours after Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, announced the clinics were dropping a lawsuit, filed earlier in the week, after receiving a letter Tuesday from Williams that Planned Parenthood said supported its position.

Responding to Williams’ Wednesday missive, Gallagher, the clinics’ lawyer, denied that the abortion providers had done anything wrong.

“We absolutely did not report any illegal procedures. AHCA has changed its position on what procedures are included in the first trimester as evidenced by their own documents,” Gallagher, a Tallahassee attorney with the Grossman, Furlow & Bayo firm said in a statement.

AHCA accused three Planned Parenthood clinics in Naples, St. Petersburg and Fort Myers last week of unlawfully performing second-trimester abortions while the clinics are licensed only to perform first-trimester procedures.

The agency targeted the clinics after Scott last month ordered health officials to investigate 16 Planned Parenthood clinics in the wake of a national firestorm over a series of undercover videos by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress. The secretly taped footage included a senior Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the procurement and sale of fetal tissue from aborted fetuses.

In citing the three Florida clinics, the agency’s investigators relied on a rule defining the second trimester as “the portion of a pregnancy following the 12th week and extending through the 24th week of gestation.” Agency documents showed that some abortions at the clinics were performed after the 12th week but before the 14th week.

But, in the lawsuit filed Monday, Gallagher pointed to a nearly-decade old agency rule that allows first-trimester abortions during the 14 weeks after a woman’s last normal menstrual period. The lawsuit sought an emergency injunction and a declaratory statement to clarify whether the clinics could continue to operate.

“Plaintiff and its physicians and staff are under a cloud of suspicion as a result of the very public accusations of allegedly performing illegal abortion procedures,” Gallagher wrote in the lawsuit filed in Leon County.

In a letter to the clinics’ lawyer dated Tuesday, Williams wrote that the agency has not changed its interpretation of the rule.

The three clinics “are authorized within the scope of their current licenses to continue providing terminations of pregnancy during the first 14 completed weeks from the last normal menstrual period (i.e., during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy/gestation),” Williams wrote.

State officials said that, although both sides agree on the 14-week period, Planned Parenthood may be relying on a different interpretation of when the pregnancy actually begins, or the disagreement could simply be a reporting error.

In announcing the clinics were dropping the lawsuit early Wednesday, Zdravecky hailed AHCA for what she called a “concession” on the issue.

“While we will of course cooperate with legitimate investigations, the public does not want elected officials spending time and money looking into bogus claims that are just part of a political agenda. We hope that lawmakers in Florida will now turn their attention to helping more Floridians access care, not less,” Zdravecky said in a statement.

Late Wednesday, Planned Parenthood representatives said they would not pursue the request for the injunction, but left the door open for further legal action.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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6 Responses for “Scott Administration Intensifies Battle Over Planned Parenthood Clinics in Florida”

  1. Obama 2015 says:

    I am so sick of the GOP wasting money for children that AREN’T BORN!! Abortions are going to happen because they
    Have to, none are the same, they are have different circumstances and reasons. Most of these pregnancies would not
    Survive even if it is brought to term. Once I can file for a SS # and get a life insurance policy on my pregnancy, it’s not a child until it is BORN.

    We have millions of AMERICAN children that have been born that do not have enough to eat, don’t have funding for a sound education and deal with clothing, shelter and lack support because their parents can’t afford to take care of them or are working 3 jobs to make ends meet. The only time the GOP seems to care about them is when they can vote or join the military. But as soon as they come back from their service, they forget about them again when they need help.

    This is all a political agenda because they really don’t have anything to run on right now and with Donald Trump leading the pack, the GOP knows they are in big trouble.

    Think about 2007 and 2008 and think about 2015 and you will realize.

    Economy is doing well adding about 200K jobs a month
    Job posting are the highest they have been since 2009
    Gas Prices are lower and should get lower by the fall.
    We aren’t fighting a war just supporting our interests
    Russia’s Economy shows no Sign of Recovery and we haven’t fired one bullet
    It’s easier to get health care and will get easier as more GOP governors feel the pressure to allow for Medicare expansion.
    Our military kill a terrorist leader at least once a month
    Housing Market is getting stronger and we now have a shortage of homes on the market so builders are getting more business.
    Interest rates and taxes are low and will rise with means we are getting more money following
    Companies are slowing moving production back to the USA (Ford moved some plants out of Mexico to OHIO)
    We have standing agreements with Iran on a nuclear deal without firing one bullet. (Like Reagan did with the USSR)
    The United States and Cuba recently reopened their embassies in both countries that had been shuttered for 54 years.

    The only issue they really have is ISIS and Gun Control and they know the war in Iraq is a major cause of ISIS and they can’t do anything about the gun violence because of their NRA donors so they pick on the easiest hot button issue that they have voted on to keep over and over again.

    The Washington Post did a story on August 9th how the GOP has FLIP FLOPPED on this issue.

    “In the 1980s, while research proceeded in other countries to treat Parkinson’s disease, the Reagan administration rejected a request for NIH support, thus beginning a moratorium on federal funding. President Reagan created a Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel to review the research. It concluded that use of the tissue did not encourage ambivalent women to choose abortion, and the panel distinguished the moral analysis of abortion from the moral analysis of using remains for research. Like the earlier advisory committee, this panel found the research to be ethically permissible, provided that the decision to have an abortion was separated from the decision to donate the remains, and that tissue recovery did not affect the safety of the procedure for the woman.

    This should have re-started the funding, and Reagan’s own secretary of health and human services later said he favored lifting the moratorium in light of this analysis. But it wasn’t lifted by Reagan or his successor, President George H.W. Bush.

    Patients and medical societies fought back, and their efforts led to provisions in the NIH Revitalization Act that specifically authorized federal funding for fetal tissue research. In 1992, the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming 85-to-12 vote — with 30 GOP votes — and the House passed it 260 to 148 — with 43 GOP votes. ”

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Conservative mantra–I will force everyone to live the way I demand that everyone live while I complain ad nauseum about “government’s intrusion” into my life and freedoms. And I will grab everything I can for myself while complaining about the “bloodsuckers” who are out to take unfair advantage of me.

  3. Sherry E says:

    Right On Obama 2015 and Anonymous says!

  4. karma says:

    Should the Scott Administration protect Princess Preserve from an extreme endurance race? God forbid we disturb the habitat of a turtle or even worse, a turtle egg get’s broken.

  5. RickG says:

    I guess Rick Scott isn’t through wasting taxpayers money. I bet if he had to foot the legal bill this would end immediately. Has anyone informed this thief that abortion is legal in this country???

  6. Lancer says:

    Leftists called returning Vietnam Vets “baby killers”. Planned Parenthood is not a woman’s health organization. If they were, they’d perform mammograms. They are nothing more than an abortion agency, funded by taxpayer dollars.

    Let them exist, on their own, without funding.

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