Court Reverses Ruling That Declared 24-Hour Waiting Period For Abortion Unconstitutional

Aug 2, 2019

Rep. Sullivan (R-Mount Dora) receiving a standing ovation from fellow Republicans after floor debate for the abortion waiting period law in 2015.
Credit Mark Foley / Florida House of Representatives

The First District Court of Appeal has reversed a ruling that declared a 2015 law requiring a one-day wait before an abortion unconstitutional. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is preparing for court once again.

In 2015, when then-Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law creating a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, the ACLU challenged it and received a temporary injunction – stopping the law from being carried out. The Florida Supreme Court backed the injunction. But ever since, the state has been working to build its case for the law. Now the state has its evidence ready and the First District Court of Appeal has given it a chance to go back to circuit court over the matter.

“We’re disappointed that the courts failed to recognize what we all know. That a 24-hour delay requirement was designed to and plainly does unnecessarily restrict access to safe and legal reproductive health care," said ACLU attorney Benjamin Stevenson. He added he's "saddened" by the court’s decision. 

The law was a product of the 2015 legislative session, and was sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora. Her goal was aimed at "empowering women to make an informed decision versus an unexpected, rushed and pressured one," Sullivan said at the time. 

Stevenson calls that justification "perplexing". "You know that is what it looks like, the state legislature is trying to restrict access to reproductive health which remains in this country safe and legal."

One of the medical doctors who testified for the state in the case says he isn’t aware of any non-emergency outpatient invasive procedure that is performed without a prior visit and consultation, an analysis Stevenson also disputes.

"But, more importantly, the law singles out abortions for this disfavored treatment. And creates a 24-hour waiting period that applies to no other similar medical procedure. This is simply designed to restrict access to reproductive health and is thus unconstitutional.”

For now, Stevenson says the ACLU will be prepping to prove its case. The temporary injunction remains in place and keeps the law from taking effect.