Florida fined an Orlando abortion clinic $193K. Its volunteers are crowdfunding the bill

ORLANDO, Fla. — Less than two weeks after Florida fined a local abortion clinic $193,000 for breaking state law, the clinic’s volunteer escorts have crowdfunded two-thirds of the bill.

As of Thursday, over 4,000 people had donated more than $150,000 to a Givebutter fundraiser organized on behalf of the Center of Orlando for Women on Lucerne Terrace. The fundraiser was created by Stand with Abortion Now (SWAN), a grassroots volunteer organization that escorts patients past protestors and into the clinic.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration fined the center for violating a Florida law that requires women to wait 24 hours after their first clinic visit to get an abortion. The law was passed in 2015 but was tied up in court until a Leon County Circuit judge upheld it in April 2022.

AHCA levied the maximum fine: $1,000 for each of the clinic’s 193 same-day abortions since the law took effect. Clinic leaders argued they were not notified the law had begun being enforced and that a fine of that size could bankrupt them. SWAN started promoting a fundraiser, sharing it with its 360,000 TikTok followers.

Since then, donations have poured in from across the world.

“It’s honestly really, really shocking. We definitely were very ambitious with this goal, and we had no idea if it was even remotely possible,” said SWAN’s social media manager, who requested anonymity out of fear for her safety. “We definitely didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.”

Donations range from $1 to more than $1,000, and donors’ reasons range just as broadly. There are donors from countries and states with even harsher restrictions, like Germany, Alabama and Texas, and donors from areas with some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the world, stretching from New York to the Netherlands.

SWAN’s social media manager attributes the fundraiser’s success to its huge social media reach as well as lingering outrage after the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court decided that abortion access should no longer be protected under the U.S. Constitution, reversing the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

“We are giving these people a chance to … be a part of saving an independent abortion clinic, in the South, in a battleground state,” she said. “This really is just working-class people seeing this tangible way to be a part of this amazing thing and people finally realizing … we can all be a part of making a change, even though it seems sort of doomsday at times.”

Since Dobbs, states have passed sweeping restrictions and all-out bans. Florida lowered its limit from 15 to 6 weeks, though the ban is in limbo until a court decides whether the current 15-week ban violates the state’s constitution.

By October 2022, four months after the court’s decision, the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute reported that at least 66 clinics across 15 states had stopped offering abortion care.

These restrictions catapulted already-high support for abortion access to new levels. In 2023, nationwide support for keeping abortion legal reached the highest level recorded since 1996, according to Gallup, which has tracked Americans’ attitudes about abortion since 1975.

Many donors touched on the nation’s decades-long fight over the polarizing and hotly debated issue.

“My sister worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Lancaster, PA, when it was bombed a number of years ago. This fight is a long, ongoing one. Thank you for fighting for us all,” one wrote.

“NO MORE CLOSED CLINICS! So much solidarity with you all fighting the fight in red states, you are the blueprint and we’re all rooting for you so hard,” wrote someone who said they are a clinic escort in Detroit.

“I needed a clinic at 19, and at 30. It was accessible because I’m in CA and this was decades ago. We need to keep fighting,” wrote another.

“Donating the last 7 dollars in my account but I’ll be back next paycheck — these clinics can not close down! Too many people are being forced to give birth especially children as of lately and it’s disgusting,” another wrote.

SWAN is counting on more donors to get the fundraiser to its goal by Sept. 14. As of Thursday, more than $40,000 was still needed.

“We definitely want to keep the momentum going,” the organization’s social media manager said. “It’s not over until we hit our goal.”