A Florida judge Thursday blocked a 15-week abortion ban from taking effect Friday.
“The House Bill 5 section law is unconstitutional in that it violates the secrecy provision of the Florida Constitution,” Circuit Judge John Cooper said.
Cooper issued a temporary statewide injunction that won’t be effective until he signs an order, which he noted “will not be today.” It is unclear whether he will sign the order before the law comes into force on Friday July 1, but the temporary injunction will prevent the ban from taking effect until a next hearing is scheduled.
“Florida has enshrined in its constitution an explicit right to privacy that is not found in the US Constitution. The Florida Supreme Court determined in its own words that “Florida’s confidentiality clause is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision whether or not to continue with her pregnancy,” Cooper said in its decision. “In other words, on the issue of abortion, the Florida Supreme Court decided that women have a right to privacy under the state constitution not to have that right affected until at least 24 weeks.”
The 15-week restriction on abortion was hugely controversial, with no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. It allowed exceptions only if the mother was at risk of serious injury or death or if the fetus had a life-threatening abnormality. The law makes it a crime to perform an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and threatens doctors with a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Florida health care providers filed the lawsuit on June 1, arguing that the law violates Florida’s state constitution. Several organizations that support abortion rights, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida and the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, have filed the lawsuit.
“We are pleased that the court has recognized that Florida’s abortion ban is a cruel assault on the state’s health, future, and constitutional rights,” said ACLU attorney Whitney White. Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement.
The ban alone would have had devastating consequences for abortion care in the Southeast, but it likely would have been worse given Friday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“While Floridians may soon breathe a sigh of relief, make no mistake about it, access to abortion is in real jeopardy in our state,” said Kelly Flynn, president and CEO of A Woman’s Clinics. Choice, in a press release. “There has been chaos and confusion among patients since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We can’t let Florida go back. Our patients should not have to worry if and when they can access abortion care, and we will continue to fight to protect their health and their lives.
The ban was fast-tracked through the Florida Legislature after State Senator Kelli Stargel and State Representative Erin Grall, both Republicans, proposed the accompanying measures. SB 146 and HB 5 in January. The bills have been quietly tucked away in legislation to revise state law Tobacco Education and Prevention Program.
“We are here today to protect life. We are here today to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said. said when signing the invoice in April.
Under current law, Florida allows abortions during the first trimester or up to 24 weeks. The restriction was modeled after a 15-week abortion ban passed in 2018 in Mississippi, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case that led to Roe’s downfall.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the judge’s decision.
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