Health regulators have imposed a hefty fine of $193,000 on an Orlando abortion clinic for violating a state law that mandates a 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining abortions. The fine is nearly three times the amount recommended by Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper, who proposed a penalty of $67,550. The final order was issued by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which stated that the clinic, known as the Center of Orlando for Women, had committed 193 violations of the law since it came into effect in April 2022.
While the clinic had suggested paying a fine of $19,300 ($100 per violation), it argued that a larger penalty would likely lead to bankruptcy or closure. However, the Agency for Health Care Administration’s Secretary, Jason Weida, justified the substantial fine by highlighting that the clinic had failed to provide reasons for non-compliance with the law until May 9, 2022, when it finally began adhering to the waiting period.
This case is part of a broader campaign by the Agency for Health Care Administration to enforce compliance with the waiting-period law, which was introduced by the Legislature in 2015. The law faced legal challenges, and it was not until April 25, 2022, that it took effect following a final judgment upholding its validity by Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey. Under this law, women seeking abortions are required to first receive information from doctors and wait at least 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.
The Agency for Health Care Administration initiated investigations into clinics’ compliance with the law after Judge Dempsey’s ruling. In the case of the Orlando clinic, the agency alleged that 193 abortions had been performed without 24-hour waiting periods between April 26 and May 7, 2022. The agency is authorized to collect a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation.
According to the clinic’s filings, it had repeatedly sought clarification from the Agency for Health Care Administration regarding the effective date of the waiting-period requirement but did not receive timely information. The clinic argued that it had taken reasonable steps to ensure compliance and had contacted the agency to obtain information about the effective date. However, the final order noted that the clinic’s office manager had admitted to being aware of the law but failed to change the clinic’s operating procedures accordingly.
Although the Agency for Health Care Administration has reached settlements with other clinics found to be violating the waiting-period law, imposing fines of $20,000 on two Miami-Dade County clinics, some cases revolved around the documentation of compliance with the law. The strict enforcement measures aim to ensure that clinics adhere to the waiting-period requirement and maintain proper records to demonstrate compliance.
This substantial fine imposed on the Orlando abortion clinic serves as a clear message from health regulators that non-compliance with the waiting-period law will not be tolerated. It reflects the agency’s commitment to upholding the regulations in place to protect women seeking abortions and to maintain the integrity of the healthcare system.