National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Fla. Supreme Court hears arguments over injunction against mandatory delay law

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments over whether to maintain an injunction on a state law (HB 633) that imposes a 24-hour mandatory delay before an abortion, the News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax reports (Saunders, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 11/1).

Details on law

The law requires a woman to meet in person with a physician at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion. Florida already requires a woman to receive counseling from a physician prior to the procedure.

The law waives the delay for women who are survivors of rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence. However, the exemptions only will be provided if the woman can produce certain documentation, such as medical records, police reports or restraining orders.

Legal background

One day after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the legislation in June 2015, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Florida challenged the law in state court.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Francis granted a temporary injunction to stop the law from taking effect. Shortly after Francis issued the injunction, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's (R) office filed a notice that it would appeal the decision. The legal action immediately stayed the injunction, which meant that the law was allowed to take effect as scheduled.

ACLU and CRR asked the judge to lift the stay and reinstate the injunction blocking the law. In July 2015, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson vacated the stay after an emergency hearing.

Florida asked the state's First District Court of Appeal to reverse the stay. In February, a three-judge panel for the court ruled in favor of the state, saying that the temporary injunction did not meet a legal test required for a temporary injunction.

In March, the First District Court of Appeal rejected an emergency motion to reinstate the injunction while the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court. In April, the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to stay the First District Court's ruling while it decided whether to consider the appeal.

The state Supreme Court in May agreed to review the First District Court ruling (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/31). The justices are not issuing a decision on the law's constitutionality.

State Supreme Court hears arguments

During arguments Tuesday, attorneys for ACLU and the state focused on whether the law violates women's right to abortion care as protected by the state Constitution's guarantee of privacy (Auslen, Tallahassee Bureau/Tampa Bay Times, 11/1).

Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law was unconstitutional. "The mandatory delay law violates the right to privacy in a very literal way: It plants the government squarely between a woman who has decided to have an abortion and the health care she seeks," Kaye said, adding, "This interference isn't incidental to the law. It is the point of the law" (News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 11/1).

Separately, Denise Harle, deputy solicitor general for Florida, claimed lawmakers acted appropriately in passing the law because the state has an interest in ensuring people carefully weigh important decisions (Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, 11/1). Harle compared the delay to the waiting period imposed by the state before other decisions, such as marriage, divorce and adoption.

According to News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince contested the state's claims. Noting that the law treats abortion care differently than other medical procedures, Pariente said, "That's why it's not neutral is because it's singling out this decision to say the state has this compelling interest in mandating that women wait 24 hours" (News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 11/1). Pariente also said the state Legislature did not provide appropriate justification for passing the law.

ACLU reiterates concerns about law

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, called the law "political interference by our Legislature in a fundamental right that women have" (Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, 11/1).

He continued, "When you have a law that requires women to take more time off from their job, that requires them to get more child care, that may require them to endanger their health by delaying something that they have already decided to do ... you can dress that up as much as you want, but that's political interference not medical interference" (News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 11/1).