Florida’s new abortion waiting-period law on hold

Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Getty Images

A law requiring women to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion is no longer in effect.

At least for now.

The mandatory waiting period was signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month and became law on Wednesday. Late Thursday, however, Circuit Judge Charles Dodson agreed to keep the measure off the books as he hears the merits of a lawsuit. In its suit, the American Civil Liberties Union argues the waiting period is unconstitutional under Florida’s broad privacy protections.

Dodson issued the injunction after a telephone hearing with lawyers for the state and the ACLU on Thursday afternoon. The ruling upholds a decision made Tuesdayby another member of the 2nd Circuit Court, Chief Judge Charles Francis.

Attorney General Pam Bondi will appeal Thursday’s decision, spokesperson Kylie Mason confirmed. A higher court would have to intervene to overturn Dodson’s ruling.

The court battle started when the ACLU sued the state on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, saying the waiting period is unconstitutional because it creates a substantial burden to women who want an abortion. In particular, they say women who cannot take much time off from work and those who live far from a clinic will be most affected.

Opponents also say the requirement runs afoul of strict privacy rights in Florida’s Constitution.

The state has argued that the waiting period law is legal under the Constitution and that there’s no reason the law’s implementation should be delayed.

Supporters modeled the law after waiting periods on the books in more than a dozen other states.

This injunction is not a ruling on the lawsuit itself. Rather, it would block the law from going into effect while the lawsuit moves forward.

With an issue as high-profile and controversial as abortion, it’s possible the ACLU’s lawsuit could reach the state Supreme Court.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen

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