NRL News

Judge uphold Florida’s 24 hour waiting period after 7 years of litigation

by | Apr 12, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

As she signaled she would last month, Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey has upheld a 24-hour waiting period, a law passed way back in 2015.

Judge Dempsey’s decision handed down last Friday, comes on the heels of the passage of a bill that would protect unborn babies after 15 weeks. Pro-life Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it at any time now.

Judge Dempsey also “rejected a request from plaintiffs to put the ruling on hold while they pursue an appeal — or at least until April 30 to give abortion providers time to take steps such as rescheduling appointments,”  Jim Saunders reported for the Orlando Weekly

“Dempsey wrote that the plaintiffs were not entitled to a stay of her ruling, as they could not show they would suffer irreparable harm.’ She pointed, in part, to other states that have abortion waiting periods.”

 “This court does not believe that the 24-hour waiting period is a significant intrusion into that right,” Dempsey wrote. “Twenty-six other states have similar restrictions, some of which have been in effect for many years. Moreover, plaintiffs can point to no evidence that these laws have prevented any women — let alone all women — who desire an abortion from obtaining one.”

Judge Dempsey noted that “The plain purpose of the Act is to enhance a pregnant woman’s voluntary and informed consent by providing for a 24-hour window of opportunity for her to consideration the important information which Florida requires she be given. In passing the Act, Florida joined the majority of State which have similar requirements, include  those that have recognized a right of privacy in their state constitutions. These laws have been upheld in numerous judicial decisions both state and federal.”

She pointed out, “In addition, as noted, the majority of other States have waiting period laws in place. Of those waiting periods, 17 are for 24 hours, on is for 18 hours, 4 are for 48 hours, and 6 are for 72 hours. Thus, with one exception, all waiting periods are for 24 hours or longer.”

The seven-year battle began in June 10, 2015 when then-Gov. Rick Scott signed HB633. Two weeks later, Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis agreed with the plaintiffs who’d challenged the law. They maintained the waiting period requirement creates an “undue burden” and violates the state Constitution’s right of privacy. That prevented the law from taking effect,

Then-Circuit Judge Terry Lewis issued a summary judgment in 2018 that said the law was unconstitutional. “But that decision was overturned in 2019 by a panel of the Tallahassee-based appeals court, sending the dispute back to circuit court,” Saunders wrote. “Dempsey issued a summary-judgment ruling Friday in favor of the state, after calling off a trial that had been scheduled this month.”

Reporter Saunders noted that “While the state Supreme Court in 2017 backed the temporary injunction against the law, the court has become far more conservative during the past three years after the retirements of longtime Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. 

“Justice Jorge Labarga is the only member of the majority in the 2017 ruling who remains on the court. Meanwhile, current Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston dissented in 2017 and continue to serve on the court.”

Categories: Judicial