Florida's abortion delay law again on hold

By Jamie Kelly | May 20, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – A law that required Florida women seeking an abortion to make a second visit to their doctor after at least 24 hours is again on hold, this time while the state’s Supreme Court considers its constitutionality.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic last year challenging the law, and a trial judge issued a temporary injunction to keep the law from being enforced. In February, a state appeals court judge rescinded that order, a move the ACLU again challenged.

“For about two months the law was in effect, and it caused significant harm to women who were experiencing the financial burdens, the psychological burdens and the harm to their health resulting from this mandatory delay,” Julia Kaye, a lawyer for the ACLU, recently told the Florida Record. “In late April, the Supreme Court reinstated the temporary injunction blocking the law; and in early May, the court agreed to review the case, so the mandatory delay law will remain on hold while the Supreme Court considers it.”

The law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in June 2015, requires that doctors who perform abortions perform an ultrasound and offer the woman seeking the abortion a chance to view it, give the woman information about possible risks, and then wait at least 24 hours before performing the abortion, among other requirements.

The ACLU has argued that physicians were already mandated to provide information and that the delay, because it isn’t medically necessary, violates women’s right to privacy. The state has responded that the delay doesn’t meet the standard of a “substantial burden” on the right of privacy, and so the law should be upheld.

Kaye said laws such as the one in Florida and other so-called “TRAP” laws, which stands for Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers, are part of a coordinated campaign to restrict abortion rights.

“They are part of a national, coordinated strategy by groups like National Right to Life and Americans United for Life to make it extremely difficult or impossible to access safe, legal abortion care,” she said. “Moreover, both the mandatory delay law and the TRAP laws we're seeing across the country, masquerade as laws designed to protect women's health, when in fact, they put women's health at risk and are opposed by leading medical associations like the AMA.”

And, she said, the law interferes with private decisions made by a woman and her doctor, which the ALCU claims goes against the Florida Constitution.

“We’re hopeful that the Florida Supreme Court will agree that the Florida Constitution's exceptionally strong privacy protections do not allow for this kind of political interference with an extremely private decision,” Kaye said. “We've also explained to the court that forcing a woman to make an additional, medically unnecessary visit to her physician will be particularly burdensome for low-income women.”

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