Fight Continues Over Florida’s Forced Abortion Delay Law

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Fight Continues Over Florida’s Forced Abortion Delay Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A state court judge blocked a Florida measure on Tuesday that would add at least 24 hours and another trip to the physician for patients seeking abortion care. An appeal by the state means the measure can take effect anyway.

A Florida state court judge on Tuesday blocked an anti-choice mandatory delay measure, but an immediate appeal by the Florida Attorney General’s office means the measure can take effect anyway.

HB 633, passed by Florida GOP lawmakers in June, would force a patient to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having an abortion. It takes effect July 1.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the measure this month on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a Gainesville reproductive health-care provider, and Medical Students for Choice, an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.

Leon County Chief Judge Charles A. Francis’ order temporarily blocked the measure while the lawsuit challenging its constitutionality proceeds. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office then filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeals, triggering an automatic stay of Francis’ order. Attorneys for the ACLU then asked Francis to lift that automatic stay, which would allow his ruling to take effect while the case proceeds.

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Francis could rule anytime this week.

“We are very pleased that the court saw this law for what it is: an unconstitutional attack on the right of Florida women to make their own choices about their healthcare, including abortion,” Nancy Abudu, ACLU of Florida Legal Director, said in a statement following Francis’ order. “The Florida Constitution’s guarantee of a right to privacy protects women from laws like this that create needless roadblocks between them and their healthcare decisions. We are pleased that no Florida woman is going to be subject to these dangerous and unconstitutional delays before getting the medical care they need as we complete the legal challenge to this destructive law.”

Florida law already requires physicians to provide patients with certain state-mandated information, including the nature and risks of the procedure and the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, as well as the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus, as verified by ultrasound.

HB 633, passed by the state’s Republican-held legislature, requires that information be provided in person at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed, a requirement that is both unnecessary and unduly burdensome, according to advocates challenging the mandatory delay measure.

“The court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care,” said Renée Paradis, Senior Staff Attorney for the national ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”

HB 633 mandates that physicians and health-care facilities that fail to follow the mandatory delay requirements would be subject to disciplinary action, including license revocation, license non-renewal, and monetary fines.