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Florida pregnancy centers prepare to help more women, babies

Advocates expect to see more women who feel pressured to make abortion decisions quickly under new pro-life protections

A pro-life advocate at a pro-abortion rally in Orlando, Fla., last month Getty Images/Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP

Florida pregnancy centers prepare to help more women, babies

On Wednesday, Florida escaped its status as an abortion destination in the region. At 8:30 that morning, about 30 pro-life pregnancy center directors joined a Google Meet call to talk about a new law protecting unborn babies from abortion after six weeks of gestation. They prayed together and shared resources to give to clients about the law.

“I think we were all excited,” said Marilyn Paul, executive director of Options for Women, a network of pro-life medical clinics in central Florida. She organized the call to help form connections between pregnancy centers in the state as they enter into a new legal landscape. “This is what we’ve been praying for a long, long time.”

But Paul said their hearts were also heavy as they thought of the upcoming November election, when voters will weigh in on a ballot measure that would add a right to abortion to the state constitution. “If it would pass, that would just absolutely devastate everything,” she said.

With the new law, pro-life pregnancy centers in the state say they expect to see an increase in women coming to them for help—and an increase in babies being born. Centers say the six-week cutoff will make many of these women feel pressured to make a quick decision, requiring centers to be ready to see clients sooner. Some centers have been making changes to prepare for this shift. But as the state approaches the November election, pregnancy center leaders recognize that the status of abortion law in the state is far from settled.

After the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022, a new Florida law took effect protecting unborn babies from abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. Before that, abortion had been legal in Florida up to the point a baby could survive outside the womb, or roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions. But as surrounding states enacted even stronger protections for unborn babies, women began traveling to Florida to abort their babies. Abortions in the state increased from 79,817 in 2021 and 82,192 in 2022 to 84,052 in 2023.

Even before the six-week law took effect Wednesday, Charles DiMarco, president and CEO of New Life Solutions—a network of medical pregnancy centers in the Tampa Bay area—said his centers were already seeing changes caused by the new law. He estimated that the final days of April were busier at his centers than they’ve ever been before because of the number of women between six and 15 weeks of pregnancy trying to decide by May 1 if they would choose abortion.

Abortion facilities in the state were busy, too. One of DiMarco’s pregnancy centers, in North Tampa, is next door to an abortion facility. His team reported that the facility’s parking lot was packed and busier than normal leading up to the law taking effect. Other news organizations reported that appointments at Florida abortion facilities increased significantly ahead of Wednesday.

“Although six is lower than 15, it creates some unique challenges for us to be able to reach women in need at their most desperate time,” said DiMarco. The new legislation, he said, will not eliminate a woman’s intent to have an abortion but will make her feel like she has to act faster, giving pregnancy centers a smaller window of time to engage with her. He anticipates that this new six-week cutoff will cause the percentage of abortions before six weeks to grow significantly.

“This is why we need to continually innovate and expand services,” DiMarco said. Since 2022, his centers have introduced abortion pill reversal services and mental health counseling to help the increasing number of women they see who have undergone chemical abortions.

DiMarco referenced statistics showing that a woman who walks into a pregnancy center is more likely to decide against abortion than a woman who walks into an abortion clinic. That makes the pregnancy center’s early contact with a woman crucial. “The question is this: where will they go first?” he said.

For many Florida pregnancy centers, increasing the chances that women come to them first looks like offering earlier ultrasounds and squeezing in more appointments. Paul at Options for Women said her centers used to offer ultrasounds at six weeks of pregnancy. Now they perform ultrasounds—what Paul called the “window to the womb”—for women who are just over 5 weeks so they can help them earlier. Paul said that seeing the unborn baby often contributes to a woman deciding to keep her baby. She said her centers are working to start scheduling staff for more ultrasound shifts and shortening patient appointments so they can see more women in a day. They’ve also hired a nursing hotline that will soon start taking after-hours calls for them and scheduling appointments at the Options for Women centers.

Executive director Joy Wright at Hope Women’s Centers said her Miami and Fort Lauderdale–area centers have also started offering earlier ultrasounds and are mainstreaming their services to ensure women can get those done right away. Even before the new law took effect, Wright’s centers were frequently booked, so she said it’s too early to see much of an influx yet. But she said her team has been working to open up more appointment times in anticipation of the coming increase. Hope Women’s Centers has also expanded its network of adoption agencies as staff anticipate more women choosing that option for their babies.

For Wanda Kohn, the focus at the Pregnancy and Family Care Center she directs in Leesburg has been to train volunteers and staff to form better connections with women over the phone. “It may be that they mistakenly called us, you know, looking for an abortion,” she said. Her center has a small window of opportunity during calls like that to explain to the woman the services and resources they offer so that she might still choose to come visit the center even though it isn’t a medical center and doesn’t perform abortions. “That first connect is super important…. They’re probably going to be picking up the phone and calling an abortion facility, and then it’s really easy to lose them then,” Kohn said.

But these advocates recognize their strategies could all change again if 60 percent of Florida voters support the abortion amendment in November. If that happens, Florida will not only lose its six-week law but the 15-week protections as well. The state will revert back to its pre-Dobbs viability limit, except this time with a broad and undefined health exception that pro-lifers fear will allow for abortions for virtually any reason. That would make Florida an even more popular abortion destination than it was before.

Wright said pregnancy centers in the state are doing what they can to navigate the state’s abortion laws. “It’s just been kind of a ride these last couple years in Florida with how our laws have been changing,” she said. But she said they’re getting ready for what might be coming in November. “We’re constantly doing all we can to better equip ourselves and to be prepared.”

Leah Savas

Leah is the life beat reporter for WORLD News Group. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College and the World Journalism Institute and resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.


I so appreciate the fly-over picture, and the reminder of God’s faithful sovereignty. —Celina

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