(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit in state court today which seeks to block a recently passed Florida measure forcing a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care. The law—slated to take effect on July 1, 2015—fails to include any protections for a woman whose pregnancy threatens her health or a meaningful exception for survivors of rape, incest, or intimate partner violence.
“Women are fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about their lives, health, and families without interference from politicians seeking to advance an agenda,” said Autumn Katz, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We are confident this demeaning measure will be struck down as a blatant violation of the state’s strong constitutional protections for women’s rights.”
“It’s clear that the sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do,” said Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the ACLU. “Furthermore, it’s flat-out offensive. A woman who is seeking an abortion has already carefully considered her decision. She doesn’t need politicians to create additional hurdles because they disagree with her.”
“Physicians have an obligation to both provide and advocate for the care their patients need when facing an unintended pregnancy--and laws like Florida’s make that impossible,” said Lois Backus, Executive Director of Medical Students for Choice. “If allowed to go forward, this law will make it more difficult for women in Florida to obtain the quality healthcare they deserve for generations to come.”
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.
In a region devastated by similarly underhanded restrictions, Florida’s strong state constitutional protections have ensured the state serves as a safe haven for women from neighboring states seeking safe and legal abortion services. From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion, women in the South often face innumerable hurdles when trying to exercise their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee filed today’s challenge in the Circuit Court of Leon County 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.
Harmful restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like Florida from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.