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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida health agency drops charges against Planned Parenthood



State health regulators are backing off of Planned Parenthood.

The Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday dropped a case alleging that three clinics in  St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers were performing abortions in the second trimester of a pregnancy but were only licensed for first-trimester procedures.

Planned Parenthood had contested the alleged violations, saying they were politically motivated following controversial videos last summer. Gov. Rick Scott’s ordered the inspections, and his office was intimately involved in crafting the message when the agency announced the violations.

Ultimately, the issue came down to the definition of when the first trimester of a pregnancy ends and the second begins. In reprimanding the clinics, the agency put the end of a trimester two weeks earlier than Planned Parenthood, which said it has always counted the length of a pregnancy starting at the woman’s last menstrual period — a commonly accepted method.

But an abortion measure signed into law by Scott last week settled the issue.

Under Florida law, the second trimester now begins 12 weeks after gestation.

“On Friday Governor Scott signed HB 1411 which rendered these administrative proceedings moot,” AHCA spokeswoman Mallory McManus said in a written statement. “We will continue to hold Planned Parenthood and all Florida clinics accountable to following the law.”

Now, Planned Parenthood is asking an administrative law judge to order the state to pay for attorney’s fees and court costs.

In a motion Monday, Planned Parenthood called the charges against the clinics “frivolous,” “primarily to harass” and intended to “needlessly increase the cost of litigation.”

Although the state has dropped the case, Barbara Zdravecky, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida chief executive officer, said Monday the state is still playing politics with the clinics.

“How convenient that now, six months later, they are conceding their case and dropping these politically motivated charges at the same moment that Rick Scott has signed new trimester standards into law that fly in the face of medically accepted standards,” she said in a statement. “It would appear the political gamesmanship will go on with no regard for the best interests of Florida women and families.”

[Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2016 4:21pm]


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