Florida Court Hears Case Challenging Abortion Law
Florida's First District Court of Appeal is deciding whether they should lift an order that blocked a state law requiring a 24-hour waiting period for abortions.
The three-judge panel heard arguments Tuesday from the attorney general's office and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The state filed the complaint after two judges blocked the law last July when it was supposed to take effect.
The state wants the injunction reversed because it believes the law allows pregnant women to make an informed decision. It was passed last year by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
The law requires a woman to wait at least 24 hours after visiting a physician at the clinic and getting information.
Julia Kaye, an ACLU lawyer who is representing Gainesville's Bread and Roses Women's Health Center and Medical Students for Choice, said the law is a violation of the right of privacy in the state constitution.
"All it does is stigmatize women who seek abortion care, burden them and interfere in the patient-doctor relationship," Kaye said.
The ACLU also says that the law creates an undue burden on women because it requires them to make multiple trips to the clinic and that it can create an economic hardship due to additional time off or extra travel for those located in rural areas.
Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who sponsored the bill in the legislature, said after the hearing that she thought deputy attorney general Denise Harle did a good job making the state's points and that she believes the law empowers women to make an informed decision.
Sullivan, a Republican from Mount Dora, also pointed out that the law is narrowly tailored to Florida's strict privacy laws. Six other states use the same language for waiting periods and consultation with a physician. It has been challenged in only one other state and was upheld.
"There are women who are pro-choice that believe that women should have the time to consider it and have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor. They appreciate the language because it furthers women's health," she said.
The appellate judges asked both sides if the case was sent back to trial court if additional facts would be brought forth and questioned whether there was enough evidence and clarity in the injunction order by Tallahassee circuit judge Charles Dodson.
The law allows the waiting period to be waived for victims of rape, incest, domestic abuse or human trafficking if women present their doctors with documentation.
The appellate case was heard on the same day the House Health and Human Services Committee approved a measure that would place additional regulations on abortion clinics and would attempt to put restrictions on organizations that receive state funding but contract with Planned Parenthood.