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Orlando abortion clinic faces fine over waiting period

ORLANDO, Fla. — An administrative law judge Friday recommended that an Orlando abortion clinic pay a $67,550 fine for not complying last spring with a law requiring 24-hour waiting periods before abortions can be performed.

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Judge J. Bruce Culpepper found that the Center of Orlando for Women violated the law, but he recommended lowering a $193,000 fine sought by the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

Under administrative law, Culpepper’s ruling is a recommended order that will go back to the agency for final action.

The case centers on a waiting-period law that passed in 2015 but did not go into effect until April 25, 2022, because of a court fight.

Read: Opponents, supporters of Florida’s 6-week abortion ban gear up for final vote

The agency alleged that 193 abortions were performed at the Orlando clinic from April 26, 2022, to May 7, 2022, without 24-hour waiting periods.

It sought to impose a $1,000 fine for each of the abortions.

Read: Nikki Fried, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book among those arrested during abortion ban protest

The clinic argued that it made repeated requests to the agency for information about when the 24-hour waiting period requirement would take effect and got no information.

Culpepper recommended lowering the fine to $350 for each abortion.

He wrote that evidence and testimony in the case included “certain extenuating and mitigating facts that should be considered when assessing the gravity” of the violations.

Read: Florida lawmaker files bill proposing 6-week abortion ban

For example, he wrote that the clinic began requiring 24-hour waiting periods on May 9, two days before an agency official appeared unannounced at the clinic to review records.

“(The) evidence does not show that the center had direct, contemporaneous knowledge that the 24-hour wait period went into effect on April 25, 2022,” Culpepper wrote. “Accordingly, the evidence does not prove that the center intentionally violated (the law) for the termination procedures performed on 193 patients between April 26, 2022, and May 7, 2022.”

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