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Federal judge issues permanent injunction against certain Fla. abortion restrictions

August 19, 2016 — A federal judge on Thursday issued an order that permanently blocks certain provisions in a Florida antiabortion-rights law (HB 1411) from taking effect, Reuters reports (Simpson, Reuters, 8/18).

Law details

The law, which was scheduled to take effect July 1, 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/1).

According to Planned Parenthood, the defunding provision would cause the organization to lose about $500,000 annually in funding for health care screenings and a program that helps keep students in high school (Fineout, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/18).

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 the law's defunding provision, the new clinic inspection regulations and the change to pregnancy trimester dates.

Later in June, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law's defunding and file inspection provisions. He left in effect the law's redefinition of gestation and pregnancy trimester dates. In blocking the defunding provision, Hinkle ruled, "The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly -- by withholding otherwise-available public funds -- conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly." Separately, he likened the law's patient-records requirement to a warrantless search (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/1).

Earlier this month, Florida officials and Planned Parenthood filed a joint motion agreeing to end litigation (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/18).

Latest developments

After holding a hearing on the joint motion, Hinkle issued a ruling that made the injunction issued in June permanent. Hinkle ruled that the state unacceptably targeted abortion providers by seeking to end funding for services unrelated to abortion such as contraception and screenings for sexually transmitted infections (Reuters, 8/18).

Jackie Schutz, a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), said the governor's office is reviewing the ruling. She did not state whether Florida will appeal. According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, if the state appeals, it may not present new arguments or enter new evidence.

Lillian Tamayo, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, praised the court's latest action. "We are grateful the court stepped in to stop Rick Scott in his tracks and protect access to health care," she said, adding, "If this law had gone into effect, it would have made a bad situation even worse" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/18).