Florida’s 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Law Put on Hold

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A Florida law requiring women seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours after first visiting a doctor was put on hold by a state court judge, two groups challenging the measure said.

Signed June 10 by Republican Governor Rick Scott, the Informed Patient Consent Law imposed a one-day delay after physicians met an existing requirement that they tell would-be abortion patients about the nature and risks of the procedure. It was to take effect Wednesday.

The temporary halt was granted Tuesday by Judge Charles A. Francis in Tallahassee. A copy of the ruling was supplied by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records.

Whitney Ray, a spokesman for state Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, said in an e-mailed statement that the state will file a notice of appeal.

Florida’s requirement comes amid a national wave of legislation aimed at curbing abortions by reducing the time in which one can be performed, and by limiting the types of procedures and number of clinics that offer the service.

The Reproductive Rights Center and the American Civil Liberties Union sued June 11 to block Florida’s measure on behalf of a Gainesville clinic. They argued the legislation violated state law privacy rights and that -- because it didn’t apply to comparable medical procedures -- it stigmatized women seeking to end pregnancies.

State’s Position

Florida opposed the groups’ request for a temporary court order, telling Francis it posed no significant burden to women, that other states have comparable laws and that the measure is constitutional, according to his ruling.

The judge rejected those contentions.

“The court has no evidence in front of it with which to make any factual determination that a 24-hour waiting period with the accompanying second trip necessitated by the same is not an additional burden on a woman’s right of privacy” under state law, he said.

“Women are fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about their lives, families and health care,” Autumn Katz, an attorney for the Reproductive Rights Center, said in a statement. “This ruling will keep them from being second-guessed or delayed by politicians who presume to know better.”

The case is Gainesville Women Care LLC v. State of Florida, 2015CA1322, Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit, Leon County, Florida (Tallahassee).

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