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Fla. files document in case challenge new abortion restrictions

July 21, 2016 — The Florida Attorney General's Office on Monday filed a new document in a case brought by Planned Parenthood against provisions in a state omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 1411), the News Service of Florida/CBS Miami reports (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 7/20).

Background on the law

The law, signed in March, prohibits local health departments from allocating public funds to organizations affiliated with abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, for family planning services and other reproductive care for low-income residents. A ban on allocating public funds for abortion care is already in place.

The legislation also requires clinics that offer abortion care beyond the first trimester to have admitting privileges for their physicians at a local hospital and a transfer agreement with a hospital in the area. Clinics that offer abortion care only in the first trimester are required to have one of these two types of agreements.

Further, under the law, any facility that offers abortion-related counseling to a woman has to register with the state unless it counsels a woman to not have an abortion. The law also bans the sale, purchase or donation of fetal tissue resulting from abortion.

In addition, the law makes clinic inspection requirements more stringent and redefines gestation and pregnancy trimester dates, which affects when providers can offer abortion care.

Lawsuit details

In June, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to overturn and halt enforcement of the law's defunding provision, the new clinic inspection regulations and the change to pregnancy trimester dates. In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood said state lawmakers passed the law to "punish, harass, and stigmatize the state's abortion providers for their and their patients' exercise of constitutional rights."

The organization argued that the defunding provision would keep clinics from receiving about $500,000 to provide health care screenings and other services.

Further, Planned Parenthood contended that a provision of the law requiring the state to inspect at least half of the patient records at abortion clinics violates the clinics' equal protection rights. According to the lawsuit, the patient records requirement also violates the 14th Amendment's due process clause, as well as the state constitution's right to privacy.

In addition, Planned Parenthood said the law's redefined gestation dates are unconstitutionally vague.

In late June, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction that blocks the law's defunding and file inspection provisions. He left in place the law's redefinition of gestation and pregnancy trimester dates. The injunction will remain in place until a final ruling is issued on the contested provisions (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1).

State's latest filing

In the document filed Monday by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), the state disputed Planned Parenthood's allegation that the documentation inspection requirement is "invasive."

The state acknowledged that other providers and facilities are not subject to the documentation requirement the state requires for abortion providers. The state noted that the other providers and facilities "are subject to being reviewed to whatever extent [the state] deems appropriate" (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 7/20).