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Seven Florida Supreme Court justices hear oral argument over 24-hour waiting period

by | Nov 2, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

FLsupremecourtbldgThe seven-member Florida Supreme Court heard competing arguments Tuesday over the state’s requirement that a pregnant woman meet with an abortionist and wait 24-hours before she can have an abortion.

Waiting periods are both common and common sense legislation. 19 states have 24 hour waiting periods, three states have 48 hour waiting periods, and six states have a 72 hour waiting period. One state has an 18 hr waiting period.

An attorney for the ACLU told the justices that the state is different because of a right of privacy in the Florida Constitution.

Michael Auslen reported that Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told the court,”Privacy infringement is apparent as a matter of law because the state is telling a woman that she cannot exercise a fundamental constitutional right for a 24-hour period.”

According to Auslen, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times,

Society has an interest in people making important decisions after giving them proper consideration, said Denise Harle, the state’s deputy solicitor general.

“The waiting period is not because it’s a medical procedure,” Harle said. “It’s a waiting period because it’s an irreversible, life-altering decision on the level of other things like marriage, divorce or giving up your child for adoption.”

The justices did not indicate when they might rule on the law that was in effect for two months before the State Supreme Court stepped in and stopped its enforcement in April.

The lawsuit was brought by Bread and Roses, a Gainesville, Florida abortion clinic, and other abortion-rights activists. They’ve argued that the requirement creates an “undue burden” and violates the state Constitution’s right of privacy.

Pro-life Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 633 into law June 10, 2015. Two weeks later, Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis agreed with the plaintiffs and prevented the law from going into effect scheduled for July 1.

The state appealed to Florida’s First District Court of Appeals. On February 26, 2016, the court reversed the injunction order and immediately reinstated the law.

In arguing before Judge Francis, Blaine Winship, special counsel to the attorney general, offered a number of reasons why HB 633 does not violate the right of privacy. To begin with, he noted that there was nothing in the law that removed or deprived a woman of her right to have an abortion.

“The state wields the police power to protect the health and safety of the people,” he told Judge Francis. “The question of whether there is a 24-hour wait for her to contemplate the full impact and ramifications of her decision is obviously what we’ve been talking about.”

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He added, “It’s what the Legislature aimed to try to protect, and in that regard, women will still have their privacy, they’ll still have the opportunity to have an abortion if they want to, the only question is whether there will be a twenty four hour waiting period or not.”

Moreover, “Winship pointed to a 2006 Florida Supreme ruling that upheld the informed-consent provision in a 1997 law, the ‘Women’s Right to Know’ Act, which required doctors to explain the medical risks of abortion and to obtain consent from women seeking them,” according to WJXT/News 4.

However the abortion clinic and the pro-abortion group appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. On April 22, 2016, in a 5-2 decision, the Court stayed the law’s enforcement which halted the law and its protections until the justices decided whether to take the case.

On May 5, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court formally accepted the case for review.

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Categories: Judicial