Florida Supreme Court Weighs 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period Law

Nov 1, 2016

ACLU Attorney Julia Kaye argues before the Florida Supreme Court that the 24-hour abortion waiting period should be put back hold.
Credit Gavel-2-Gavel / Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court is weighing whether to reinstate a hold on the state’s 24 hour abortion wait law.  The court heard arguments in the case Tuesday.

The ACLU of Florida argues the First District Court of Appeal's decision to lift an injunction on a 2015 abortion law was incorrect. Attorney Julia Kay says that court failed to consider privacy issues when it ruled against an injunction.

“By design, for at least 24 hours, a woman who has made the exceedingly private decision to end her pregnancy cannot do so. In vacating the TI (Temorary injunction), the DCA not only misstated and mis-applied this court’s binding precedent, it also reached a conclusion directly at odds with the conclusion reached by every court to consider a mandatory delay law under the same standards that this court applies to restrictions on abortions.”

Meanwhile Denise Harle an attorney with the state, argues the DCA’s decision to lift the stay was correct, because, "it was procedurally improper for the trail court to issue an injunction on these circumstances. Second, on the merits…the legislature could have permissibly included that a very short consent period is necessary to effectuate the informed consent statute that this court has unanimously upheld.”

Harle likens the law to other waiting periods imposed on marriages, divorces and adoptions. But that line of argument quickly ran into headwinds from Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. Quince says it’s up to the state to prove a case for the law.

“When the privacy interest is a fundamental right which we believes demand a compelling state interest, puts the burden on the state to justify an intrusion of privacy," Quince said, quoting from the case law.

In 2015, Florida’s Republican-led legislature approved a law mandating 24 hour wait times before an abortion. The law was quickly challenged and has yet to go in effect as it remains mired in the courts.

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Original Story: At issue is whether the First District Court of Appeals’ made the right decision when it lifted a stay on a law requiring women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Julia Kaye argues the DCA ruling was wrong and that the law violates privacy rights.

“It plants the government solely between a woman who has decided to have an abortion, and the healthcare she seeks. This interference isn’t incidental to the law, it’s the point of the law," she said.

The state is defending the law and says the abortion waiting period is not unlike those imposed on marriages, divorces and adoptions.  Justices did not say when they will rule, but the court’s review has the effect of putting the 2015 law on hold again.  The constitutionality of the law will be decided separately.

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