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The reproductive care desert

President Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett stand on the Blue Room Balcony after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to her on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Barrett was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice by the Senate earlier in the evening. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Trump/DeSantis ban on abortion that went into effect yesterday has bad consequences well beyond the borders of the state of Florida:

Florida has been a refuge for abortion access in the South.

Not anymore.

Florida’s six-week abortion ban went into effect Wednesday, making the procedure nearly impossible to access for many would-be patients throughout most of the southern United States. Women from Florida to Texas are cut off from obtaining abortions either entirely or beyond the very beginning stages of pregnancy — unless they have the time and means to travel across states to a place where appointments are available, an option many women will not have.

The shift away from abortion access in Florida opens a new phase in the post-Roe v. Wade world, with severe new limitations on abortion in place across a vast and unbroken stretch of the country. The new landscape further limits access to care for women and is guaranteed to strain reproductive health care services in nearby states that still allow for broad access to the procedure.

“Our patients are screwed,” said Robin Marty, executive director of the West Alabama Women’s Center — a former abortion clinic that transitioned to providing a broad range of reproductive health services after Roe was overturned. “This is the point where it all starts to crumble.”

More than 80,000 people receive abortions in Florida annually — a number that has ticked up slightly since Roe was overturned. Since that landmark court decision, over 12,000 out-of-state patients have had an abortion in Florida, according to state data.

Now, for someone living in Miami seeking an abortion beyond the first six weeks, the closest option is traveling to North Carolina, an 11-hour drive. But if that person is more than 12 weeks pregnant, disqualifying them from care under North Carolina state law, or unable to abide by the state’s 72-hour waiting period, they must travel at least another four hours further north to Virginia.

The reproductive rights initiative in Florida is one of the most important votes of an enormously important election year.

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