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

(PRESS RELEASE) The Florida Supreme Court today 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 an appellate court allowed to take effect in February—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.

“Just because some politicians may personally disagree with a woman’s health care choices doesn’t give them license to interfere with her constitutionally protected right to safe and legal abortion,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

“Today’s ruling ensures Florida women will be able to get the constitutionally protected health care they need, when they need it, without enduring an insulting and potentially dangerous waiting period.”

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, but then an appellate court allowed the measure to take effect in February 2016.

“We are grateful that the Florida Supreme Court recognizes the financial, medical, and emotional harm this offensive law has been causing,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We hope the Court will ultimately agree that Florida women are capable of making decisions about their health and their families without political interference—and that the Florida Constitution tolerates nothing less.”

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.

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