(REVISED 8.19.2020) Florida passed a law in 2015 forcing a woman to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to her health care provider before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care. The law fails to include any exceptions for a woman whose pregnancy threatens her health or a meaningful exception for survivors of rape, incest, or intimate partner violence. The Florida Legislature has never before imposed a mandatory delay or additional-trip requirement on any other medical procedure.
Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs safe and legal abortion care—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers, to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work. Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers. Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.
Plaintiff(s): Gainesville Woman Care LLC d/b/a Bread and Roses Women's Health Center, on behalf of itself, its doctor, and its patients, and Medical Students for Choice, on behalf of its members and their patients
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Talcott Camp and Julia Kaye at the American Civil Liberties Union, Nancy Abudu and Benjamin J. Stevenson at the ACLU of Florida, and Richard E. Johnson at the Law Offices of Richard E. Johnson.
Case Summary: On June 11, 2015, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee filed a challenge to Florida’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period law in state court on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center—a Gainesville reproductive health care provider—and Medical Students for Choice—an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training. The law violates the Florida Constitution’s right to privacy and to equal protection. Plaintiffs filed a request for a temporary injunction, which the judge granted on July 2, 2015. On February 26, 2016, a Florida appellate court reversed the lower court's decision, briefly allowing the 24-hour waiting period to go into effect. The plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to stay the appellate court's decision while they pursued an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on February 29. The Florida Supreme Court granted the request to reinstate the injunction on April 22 and agreed to accept the appeal on May 5. The law is once again blocked from taking effect while the case proceeds.
On January 9, 2018, the trial court struck down the law as an impermissible infringement on the right to privacy under the Florida Constitution. The State appealed the decision and, following oral argument, the intermediate appellate court reversed the trial court's decision on August 1, 2019. The case has now been remanded back to the lower court for a trial.