A 15-year-old incest victim was denied abortion care after the state’s 15-week abortion ban—which lacks exceptions for rape and incest—took effect in July, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday. Laura Goodhue, vice president of public policy for the group, said the patient was forced to travel “at least two, three states away” with help from Planned Parenthood.
“The cruelty of forcing a very young person, who has already survived a horrible case of violence, to give birth, it just takes away their rights to bodily autonomy, and it is really turning a blind eye to what is happening in our society,” Goodhue said.
Because Florida is bordered by states like Georgia and Alabama, which have implanted a total or near total abortion ban since the fall of Roe v. Wade, the state has seen an influx of predominantly young people and sexual and domestic violence survivors seeking abortion care, Alexandra Mandado, president of Planned Parenthood for the region, said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday. State law further violates pregnant survivors by denying them “any say of their own bodies if they are over 15 weeks pregnant,” Mandado said. She added that Florida doctors “are seeing patients who did not know that they were past 15 weeks of pregnancy.”
In one particularly gutting case, Mandado talked about a patient who had been experiencing pregnancy symptoms like fatigue and nausea, but multiple doctors wrote her condition off as the effects of long covid. Consequently, “when she arrived at Planned Parenthood, she learned that she was past the limit of our state’s abortion ban.”
A Northern Florida OB-GYN also speaking at the conference said that many of the patients who were unable to get abortion care because they were past 15 weeks pregnant were young or experiencing intimate partner violence. “We are seeing this restriction have profound and terrible effects for some families in the most desperate of situations,” Dr. Shelly Tien said. “To not be able to provide that service because of the restriction for a patient in such a terrible and violent situation is horrible.” Ultimately, Tien said this patient was “sent to another health center in another state,” but that was “another delay and barrier that that young girl should not need to face.”
In a statement that’s especially out-of-touch in hindsight, back in February, a Florida Republican called the 15-week cut-off “generous,” compared to the six-week ban, inaccurately named “heartbeat” bans, that spread across the country prior to the fall of Roe. As testimony from health professionals across Florida indicates, there’s no such thing as a “generous” abortion ban; forced pregnancy at any stage is violent, as is any case of a pregnant person being denied a wanted abortion.
As testimony from Florida’s health providers demonstrates, young people—especially young, sometimes underage survivors—are disproportionately harmed by abortion bans. The case of a 10-year-old rape victim forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana for abortion care drew national attention within days of the fall of Roe, and it was followed by testimony from Ohio doctors that she wasn’t even the only underage rape victim who was denied care in the state. Recent reporting out of Arizona showed a pattern of teenage girls being denied life-saving medications they’d long relied on to manage chronic conditions because they were of “childbearing age” and their medications doubled as “abortifacients.” After having their lives upended from surviving sexual violence, teenagers’ lives are further being upended by state bans.
Correction: A previous version of this story quoted a Planned Parenthood spokesperson as having said that two incest victims, on of whom was in middle school, had to travel out of state for abortions. The organization since clarified that she misspoke: Only the 15-year-old was a victim of incest, while the pregnant middle school patient they treated had suffered sexual assault of an unknown nature, and only the incest survivor had to travel out of Florida for an abortion. The piece has been updated to reflect the latest information.