The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court injunction, blocking a 24-hour forced waiting period law.
The 2015 law, HB 633, requires a person seeking abortion care to make a medically unnecessary trip to the physician to receive state-mandated counseling before undergoing the procedure. The law was immediately challenged in court.
A state trial court issued an emergency injunction blocking the Mandatory Delay Law a couple weeks after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the bill in June 2015.
An appellate court allowed the law to go into effect in February 2016. The Supreme Court then suspended the measure in April while litigation continued.
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Justice Barbara Pariente ruled in Thursday’s 4-2 decision that the plaintiffs had established a substantial likelihood of success in its pending lawsuit.
“Today we make clear, in Florida, any law that implicates the fundamental right of privacy, regardless of the activity, is subject to strict scrutiny and is presumptively unconstitutional,” Pariente wrote in the majority opinion. “In this case, the State failed to present any evidence that the Mandatory Delay Law serves any compelling state interest, much less through the least restrictive means, and, therefore, the trial court correctly concluded that there is a substantial likelihood that the Mandatory Delay Law is unconstitutional.”
Twenty-seven states subject pregnant people to forced waiting periods, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A 72-hour forced waiting period passed by GOP lawmakers in Utah did little to dissuade people seeking abortion care, according to a 2016 study.
The Center for Reproductive Rights issued a statement noting that forced waiting periods lead to “additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work,” which can affect pregnant people living in rural communities and those in abusive relationships.
Nancy Abudu, legal director for the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement the law was not only medically unnecessary, but potentially dangerous to working women and people with low incomes.
“This law had one purpose: to limit a woman’s access to her constitutionally-guaranteed medical care. We are pleased that the court has agreed,” Abudu said.
Litigation over the law’s constitutionality could take years to complete, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reported.