(PRESS RELEASE) A state court judge today blocked 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—which was slated to take effect on July 1, 2015 and will remain blocked while the case proceeds– 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, families, and health care, and this ruling will keep them from being second-guessed or delayed by politicians who presume to know better,” said Autumn Katz, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We will continue to fight this demeaning law until the courts permanently strike it down and ensure no Florida woman is ever forced to wait for purely political reasons to get the health care she needs.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the unconstitutional measure earlier this month 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 court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care,” said Renée Paradis, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”
“This decision supports the right of all women patients to make the healthcare decisions they feel are most appropriate for them and enables their physicians to support their decisions,” said Lois Backus, Executive Director of Medical Students for Choice. “We are grateful for the court’s decision today.”
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.
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.