Florida Court Permanently Blocks Measure Forcing Women to Delay Health Care, Make Additional Trips When Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion

Measure blocked due to legal challenge from the Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU

(PRESS RELEASE) A Florida state circuit court today permanently blocked a 2015 measure which forces a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional, medically unnecessary trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care.  The law—which the Florida Supreme Court had already temporarily blocked from taking effect—fails to include any protections for a woman whose pregnancy threatens her health or a meaningful exception for survivors of rape, incest, or intimate partner violence.

“Forcing a woman to delay her health care is cruel and unconstitutional,” said Autumn Katz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Women know what’s best for their lives and futures and don’t need politicians getting in the way of their health care decisions.  The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to stand with Florida women until they can get the health care they need free from political interference.” 

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the unconstitutional measure in June 2015 on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center—a Gainesville reproductive health care provider—and Medical Students for Choice—an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.  The measure was temporarily blocked by a state trial court in late June 2015, but then an appellate court allowed the measure to take effect in February 2016.  In April 2016, the state’s highest court blocked the measure from taking effect while the litigation continued.  The same court continued to block the measure in February 2017.

“The court’s decision affirms what Floridians already know — politicians have no business interfering with a woman’s personal health care decisions, including the decision to have an abortion,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Let’s hope Florida politicians heed this decision and stop passing laws that do nothing but burden, shame, and punish a woman seeking abortion care.” 

Mandatory waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs safe and legal abortion care—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers, to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work.  Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers.  Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.