American Family Planning lawyer responds to clinic suspension

The US Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola responded to its suspension issued over the weekend.

And he will appeal the case, the clinic’s attorney, Julie Gallagher, of the law firm Tallahassee Grossman, Furlow & Bayo.

“Absolutely, we will,” Gallagher said by phone Monday afternoon.

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

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

“It must be emphasized that the AHCA suspension is based on two, and only two, patients out of more than 100,000 patients served,” Gallagher said in a written statement. “The AHCA only focuses on two patients for whom there were problems and ignores 999,998 patients for whom there were no such problems.”

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

“Ultimately, both patients survived what is a known risk for the procedure,” she said.

A “vast majority” of abortions performed at American Family Planning are medical, not surgical, abortions, Gallagher added.

The agency alleges the suspension order was based on record keeping and incident reports were not filed within 10 days and the doctor failed to follow all clinic policies.

“Despite criticisms of paperwork and system shortcomings that may be leveled against the clinic or physician, there is no doubt that he has acknowledged the complications,” Gallagher said in the written statement. “He realized their seriousness. When it mattered most, he acted. He actually transferred patient number two to the hospital. He strongly recommended patient number one to go to the hospital, which she did. As a result, both patients are alive today, thanks in part to the clinic physician’s management of the complication.”

According to data compiled by the News Service of Florida, Florida had 16,623 abortions in just over the first three months of 2022, including 170 in Escambia County.

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

“The state government folks have been trying to permanently close this clinic for years,” she said.

The American Family Planning Clinic is the only licensed abortion clinic in the Florida Panhandle and has served over 100,000 patients in over 45 years. Gallagher points out that no patient died as a result of the care and that the clinic’s complication rate is lower than the national average. Other than the two incidents cited in the suspension, no other clinicians had complications.

With the clinic closing, Gallagher said it was causing more harm to patients.

“It’s a huge loss,” she said. “It’s a greater distance to travel, more free time to access health care.”

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