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Florida Women Now Face Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits When Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion

Appellate court allows mandatory delay measure to take effect, Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU vow to seek relief on behalf of Florida women

(PRESS RELEASE) Earlier today, a Florida appellate court allowed a 2015 measure to take effect which forces a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care.  The law—which had been blocked since the summer of 2015--  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.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to pursue relief on behalf of Florida women by seeking to reinstate a temporary injunction that would block the law from taking effect while the litigation proceeds.

“When a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs compassionate care--not insulting and potentially dangerous delays mandated by politicians who presume to know better,” said Autumn Katz, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We vow to fight this law until the courts permanently strike it down, ensuring that Florida women are able to get the health care they need.”

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--which 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—was temporarily blocked by a state trial court in late June, but then permitted to take effect for 24 hours; the same trial court intervened the next day and the measure has remained blocked since.

“This ruling will harm women in Florida” said Julia Kaye, Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.  “A woman who has decided to have an abortion should be able to get one without the state putting up unnecessary roadblocks to prevent her from getting the care she needs.”    

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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