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Abortion Wait Period Back On Hold

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

In the latest move in a legal and political battle, a circuit judge has issued an order blocking a new law that requires women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion in Florida.

After a hearing by conference call on Thursday, Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson granted a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights to vacate a stay that had allowed the 24-hour waiting period to remain in effect.

The new law (HB 633) was slated to go into effect on Wednesday, but its status went back and forth several times this week and is likely to continue to do so.

The law adds to the requirements for informed consent that physicians performing abortions must obtain. Under the law, the information must be provided in person to women at least 24 hours before the procedures are performed --- requiring them to make two trips to abortion clinics.

As soon as Gov. Rick Scott signed the law last month, the advocacy groups filed to block it until they could challenge its constitutionality.

On Tuesday, Leon Chief Judge Charles Francis granted their request for a temporary injunction, placing the law on hold. But Attorney General Pam Bondi's office filed an appeal within hours, triggering an automatic stay and putting the law back into effect. Ten minutes later, the advocacy groups moved to lift the stay.

For now, the law is not in effect.

"In the temporary injunction order, this court already found irreparable harm would occur if (HB 633) goes into effect," Dodson wrote in his order.

The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights contend that the law increases the threat to women's privacy --- especially low-income women, who must arrange for child care, time off and overnight travel --- in seeking an abortion.

"We are grateful that the judge blocked this dangerous intrusion by politicians into the private, medical decisions of a woman, her family and her doctor," Jennifer Lee of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement.

The state's position is that it has a vested interest in its residents' well-being, and that the 24-hour wait will give women more time to reflect on their decisions.

"The Attorney General's Office is appealing the temporary injunction and is reviewing the judge's order vacating the automatic stay," Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for Bondi, wrote in an email.

The law includes exceptions to the waiting period for victims of rape, incest, domestic violence and human trafficking, but they must produce police reports, restraining orders, medical records or other documentation in order to qualify.