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He calls out to a man following a woman into the clinic.
“Can you give her this? It has information on pregnancy centers and options,” Gladu asks.
“It’s not my choice,” the man replies, taking Gladu’s pamphlet.
The “pregnancy centers” promoted by Gladu are funded almost exclusively by faith-based organizations. Billboards for the centers are familiar sights along area highways, advertising free ultrasounds or free pregnancy tests (but never, of course, abortion).
“Generally we think pregnancy centers are misrepresenting themselves as healthcare providers,” says Dupree. “Often, they provide medically inaccurate information.”
But the centers’ numbers are increasing. In January, the New York Times reported there are 2,500 pregnancy centers nationwide compared to 1,800 abortion providers. There are 91 abortion providers in Florida, down 12 percent from 2005; 72 percent of counties have no abortion providers at all. One in four women live in those counties.
“Overall, the amount of doctors taking on this role decreases every year,” Dupree said. “It’s not very popular in medical school, and the number of doctors doing it are lessening.”
Finding an abortion provider is only the first hurdle; paying for it can be even more of a challenge.
According to Guttmacher, 42 percent of women seeking abortions live at or below the poverty line. That means they often rely on government healthcare, which does include contraception but does not cover abortion.
“You’re a young woman living on the edge of poverty and all of a sudden you have to pay for an abortion too,” Ellerman said. “Is it less expensive to pay for an abortion than to have a child on welfare for the rest of their lives?”
If you’ve had unprotected sex and are concerned about getting pregnant, the Plan B pill is available without a prescription for women 17 and older for $35-$60. Taken in the first 72 hours following intercourse, it can prevent pregnancy. After that, it gets a little more complicated and much more expensive.
A medical abortion is available for pregnancies nine weeks or less and involves taking the “abortion pill” by mouth, costing $300-$800. Before taking the pill, women must submit to an ultrasound (sometimes at their own cost), wait 24 hours, and then return to get the pill. It is considered the least invasive of abortion procedures.
Of the abortions performed nationwide in 2008, 88 percent were performed in the first 12 weeks. After nine weeks until 24 weeks, surgical abortions are available. But past the first trimester, there are few clinics that offer services.
Planned Parenthood’s new motto is “care no matter what,” and Dupree says they have help for those in financial need.
The vote to reject Amendment 6 represented a rare victory for pro-choice forces in Florida. For Ayele Hunt, executive director of I Am Choice, the group formed to fight the amendment, the fight was personal — a chance to carry on the legacy of those who fought for Roe.
“I felt like we young women let the ball drop,” Hunt said. “A lot of my dedication to this issue came from a feeling of being obligated to them, to what those women fought for.”
The amendment, proposed by the state Legislature, was viewed by opponents as a veiled threat to women’s rights to privacy, a means of laying the groundwork for abolishing abortion in the state altogether.
But getting the message across was a challenge, says Hunt.
“One lesson I took from the experience … was that the general electorate was not aware of this issue as much,” Hunt said. “Many women took it for granted because they were uninformed about the different ways that right was being threatened.”
Ultimately, the campaign prevailed, says Planned Parenthood’s Dupree, because “politicians have overstepped what is really a private decision for the woman, her family and her doctor. The voting population rejected Amendment 6 by a wide margin and women were very vocal.”
Still, on a personal level, abortion can be a difficult subject to talk about candidly.
“I had someone who I knew have an underground abortion about a month ago,” says Hunt. “She called me a week afterwards, and I helped take care of her. The amount of care she needed, from just a psychological state, she had so much guilt. She felt like she had sinned.”
Tampa Representative Janet Cruz remembers being a scared 16-year-old girl and finding out she was pregnant.
Cruz was raised Catholic, and the church does not support abortion. Abortions weren’t legal in Florida then, but going out of state for the procedure was an option.
“It was a decision between my family, my god, and my church,” Cruz says. “I decided to have my daughter but it was my decision.”
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