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Advocates Press Florida Court to Keep Abortion Delay Law Blocked

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys challenging the measure argue it unduly burdens abortion rights and serves no legitimate health interest.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday urged a Florida appeals court to continue to block a law forcing abortion patients to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having the procedure.

HB 633, passed by Florida GOP lawmakers in June, has been on hold after reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit arguing the measure was unconstitutional. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the measure in June on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a Gainesville reproductive health-care provider, and Medical Students for Choice, an organization that aims to make reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.

Leon County Chief Judge Charles A. Francis temporarily blocked the measure before it could take effect in July. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office immediately filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeals, who heard Tuesday’s arguments.

“We are hopeful the appellate court will continue to block this demeaning measure, which only drives a wedge between a woman and her right to safe, legal abortion,” Autumn Katz, staff attorney at CRR, said in a statement on the case.

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Attorneys challenging the measure argue it unduly burdens abortion rights and serves no legitimate health interest. Florida law already requires physicians to provide patients with state-mandated information about the risks of abortion and of carrying a pregnancy to term.

HB 633 requires that such information be provided in person at least 24 hours before the abortion is performed, a requirement that is both unnecessary and unduly burdensome, according to advocates challenging the Republican-backed mandatory delay measure.

HB 633 mandates that physicians and health-care facilities that fail to follow the mandatory delay requirements would be subject to disciplinary action, including license revocation, license non-renewal, and monetary fines.

“The mandatory delay introduces a real hardship for many and it will have particularly harsh consequences for low-income women—who will be forced to miss work, lose wages, and pay for additional travel and child care simply to access health care,” Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “To double the logistical burdens is downright cruel.”

“Florida women are fully capable of making decisions about their health and their families without first being subjected to a mandatory, government-imposed ‘time-out,’” Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

The court is not expected to rule for several weeks. Meanwhile, the GOP-majority Florida legislature is considering a new batch of anti-choice bills, including legislation that advocates say imposes medically unnecessary targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) restrictions. Those restrictions mirror similar measures passed in Texas that will be under review by the U.S. Supreme Court this spring.

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