A federal judge has blocked a Florida law that would require people and groups that provide abortion advice to register with the state and furnish women with a detailed explanation of the procedure and alternatives.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle issued the ruling late Friday saying that the lawsuit filed by a minister, two rabbis, the Palm Beach chapter of the National Organization for Women and others would likely succeed at trial. The plaintiffs argued that the 2016 law would compel them to pay a $200 fee and make statements they disagreed with and weren't qualified to make. The plaintiffs don't provide abortions but make referrals. They receive no government funds.
The state's attorneys argued the plaintiffs had not been harmed by the law, that it wasn't being enforced and that there was no penalty for not registering.
Hinkle, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, said the advice the plaintiffs provide is protected by the First Amendment, so the state cannot usually require them to register and pay a fee. He pointed out the state does not require similar individuals and groups giving advice on cancer treatment, vaccines and other legal medical procedures to register, only abortion.
He called a provision "hopelessly vague" that requires women and the parents of girls who seek abortion advice receive "a full and detailed explanation of abortion, including the effects of and alternatives to abortion."
Nancy Abudu, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, issued a statement saying, "This ill-considered and dangerous law criminalized conversations between confidants, including friends, relatives, clergy people, mental health workers, and a host of others. We will continue to do everything possible to protect the rights of both Florida women contemplating an abortion and those they turn to seeking compassion and advice."
Gov. Rick Scott's office said Saturday the ruling is being reviewed.