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Attorney for American Family Planning responds to clinic's suspension

American Family Planning.jpg
Hunter Morrison
WUWF Public Media
A sign on the door at American Family Planning clinic as of Monday afternoon.

American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola has responded to its suspension issued over the weekend.

And it will be appealing the case, the clinic’s attorney, said Julie Gallagher, of the Tallahassee law firm Grossman, Furlow & Bayo.

“Absolutely we will,” Gallagher said via telephone on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, it was reported the clinic was suspended by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration citing two cases in which patients had complications of late-second-trimester abortions.

Gallagher said the suspension was “well beyond” what was necessary and that the clinic could have stayed open for all other procedures and suspended second-trimester abortions.

“It must be pointed out that AHCA’s suspension is based on two, and only two, patients out of over 100,000 patients served,” Gallagher said in a written statement. “AHCA is focusing only on two patients where there were issues, and ignoring 999,998 patients where there were no such issues.”

While she understands the cause for concern over the two patients, Gallagher said AHCA has raised no criticism and found no fault with the clinic’s handling of first-trimester surgical abortions.

“Bottom line is both patients survived what is a known risk to the procedure,” she said.

A “vast majority” of abortions conducted at American Family Planning are medication abortions and not surgical, Gallagher added.

It’s alleged by the agency that the suspension order was based on record-keeping and that incident reports were not filed within 10 days and the doctor did not follow all of the clinic’s policies.

“Despite whatever criticisms of paperwork and system deficiencies that can be lodged against the clinic or the doctor, there is no question that he recognized the complications,” Gallagher said in the written statement. “He realized their seriousness. When it mattered most of all, he acted. He did, in fact, transfer patient number two to the hospital. He strongly recommended patient number one go to the hospital, which she did. As a result, both patients are alive today, thanks in part to the clinic doctor’s management of the complication."

According to data compiled by the News Service of Florida, Florida had 16,623 abortions in a little more than the first three months of 2022, and 170 of those were in Escambia County.

Gallagher has represented the clinic for several years, she said. She also believes the suspension is in part a reaction to the larger debate on abortion in the state and in the country. Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

“People in state government have been trying to permanently close down that clinic for years,” she said.

American Family Planning clinic is the only licensed abortion clinic in the Florida Panhandle and has served more than 100,000 patients in the space of more than 45 years. Gallagher points out no patients have died as a result of care, and the complication rate of the clinic is below the national average. Outside of the two incidents cited in the suspension, no other clinician has had any complications.

With the clinic closed, Gallagher said it causes more harm to patients.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” she said. “It’s a greater travel distance, more time off from work to access health care.”

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.