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Fla. Judge Reinstates Hold on 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Law

July 6, 2015 — A Florida judge on Thursday issued an order temporarily blocking a state law (HB 633) that imposes a 24-hour mandatory delay before an abortion, after the law briefly took effect on Wednesday, News Service of Florida/WTXL reports (Menzel, News Service of Florida/WXTL, 7/3).

Details on Law

The law requires a woman to meet in person with a physician at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion. Florida already requires women to receive counseling from a physician prior to the procedure.

The law was amended to waive the delay for women who are survivors of rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence. However, the exemptions only will be provided if women can produce certain documentation, such as medical records, police reports or restraining orders.

Legal Background

One day after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the legislation in June, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Florida filed a suit in state court to block the law.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs listed several potential violations of the right to privacy guaranteed in the Florida constitution, noting that the need for privacy is particularly important for women in abusive relationships, as they "often are carefully monitored and have limited unaccounted for time." Further, they noted that the law's documentation requirement violated the privacy rights of rape, incest and human trafficking survivors.

On Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Francis granted a temporary injunction that would have stopped the law from taking effect. Shortly after Francis issued the injunction, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's (R) office filed a notice that it would appeal the measure. The legal action immediately stayed the injunction, which meant that the law was allowed to take effect as scheduled.

ACLU and CRR asked the judge to lift the stay and reinstate the injunction blocking the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1).

Order Details

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson vacated the stay after an emergency hearing on the measure on Thursday.

The order vacated the stay that allowed the law to take effect. Dodson wrote in the order that "this court already found irreparable harm would occur if" the law took effect (News Service of Florida/WXTL, 7/3). Further, Dodson expressed doubt the state would successfully overturn the temporary injunction against the law in its appeal (Fineout, Florida Times Union, 7/2).

Reaction

CRR's Jennifer Lee said her group is "grateful that the judge blocked this dangerous intrusion by politicians into the private, medical decisions of a woman, her family and her doctor" (News Service of Florida/WXTL, 7/3).

Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida, said her group also is "grateful that the [Florida] Legislature's anti-abortion politics will not be imposed upon women during the challenge to these new restrictions, and they will not have the burden of traveling multiple times to a clinic and facing unnecessary delays to receive the care that they need" (Florida Times Union, 7/2).

Meanwhile, Kylie Mason, a spokesperson for Bondi's office, in an email said the state "Attorney General's Office is appealing the temporary injunction and is reviewing the judge's order vacating the automatic stay" (News Service of Florida/WXTL, 7/3).