Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU Secure State Supreme Court Victory for Florida Women

Florida Supreme Court continues to block measure forcing women to delay health care, make additional trips when seeking safe, legal abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) The Florida Supreme Court today continued to block 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 already blocked from taking effect last year—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.

Today’s ruling notes that “in Florida, any law that implicates the fundamental right of privacy, regardless of the activity, is subject to strict scrutiny and is presumptively unconstitutional."

“Florida women don’t need politically motivated delays when they have made the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

“Decisions about a woman’s future, health, and family do not belong in the hands of politicians who know nothing of her personal circumstances.  Women are capable decision makers and we will stand with Florida women until this law is permanently struck down.” 

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. 

“Today’s ruling is a win for Florida women,” said Nancy Abudu, legal director for the ACLU of Florida. “The burdens placed on a woman seeking an abortion by this mandatory delay law are medically unnecessary, potentially dangerous, and disproportionately burden poor and working women. This law had one purpose: to limit a woman’s access to her constitutionally-guaranteed medical care. We are pleased that the court has agreed.”

 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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