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Judge to hear plaintiffs challenge to Florida’s 24-hour waiting requirement today

by | Jul 19, 2017

By Dave Andrusko

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis

When last we wrote about HB 633, signed into law by pro-life Florida Gov. Rick Scott on June 10, 2015, a split state Supreme Court had just blocked the law which requires that a pregnant woman meet with an abortionist and wait 24-hours before she can have an abortion. The vote on that February 16 decision was 4-2.

The effect was to reverse a lower court opinion and uphold a temporary injunction against the law. “The underlying case, however, was sent back to the appeal court,” according to Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel.

Which brings us to today. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is hearing the challenge brought by lawyers for the Gainesville Woman Care abortion clinic, the ACLU, and others.

In a brief filed last month, the state asked Judge Lewis for more time to prepare, saying the state

“must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.”

However, according to the Palm Beach Post’s Dara Kam

Lewis decided he will hear arguments Wednesday on the law, which has been on hold since its passage more than two years ago, when a Leon County circuit judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the law from being implemented.

The legal wrangle back and forth is hugely complicated. In brief, the lawsuit was originally brought by Bread and Roses, a Gainesville, Florida, abortion clinic, and other abortion-rights activists. They maintained the requirement creates an “undue burden” and violates the state Constitution’s right of privacy.

In 2015, two weeks after Gov. Scott signed HB 633 into law, Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis agreed with the plaintiffs and prevented the law from going into effect, scheduled for July 1, 2015.

But 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. The plaintiffs appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

On April 2016, in a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court halted the law and its protections until the justices made a decision whether to take the case. A month later, the Court formally accepted the case for review.

Last February, in its 4-2 decision written by Justice Barbara Pariente, the justices upheld the temporary injunction. Justice Pariente relied heavily on the state Constitution’s right to privacy, and concluded the 2015 law has a “substantial likelihood” of being ruled unconstitutional.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented. They wrote “there is no basis” for the other justices “to conclude that the abortion clinic that sued the state over the law would ‘prevail in meeting their heavy burden’ of proof in the case,” according to Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald.

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