Women do not have to follow a state law requiring them to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion, the state Supreme Court made clear Thursday in a ruling that upholds an existing, lower court decision blocking the law from going into effect.
The 4-2 decision says the 24-hour delay law, passed and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, has a “substantial likelihood” of being ruled unconstitutional under broad privacy protections in the state Constitution.
“Because the right of privacy is a fundamental right within Florida’s constitution, this Court consistently has required that any law intruding on this right is presumptively unconstitutional and must be justified by a 'compelling state interest' which the law serves or protects through the 'least restrictive means,’ ” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in the decision.
The law has been effectively blocked for most of the 20 months since it went into effect.
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The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether the law is constitutional — only on an injunction that keeps it from going into effect. A lawsuit over constitutionality will likely continue but could take years to complete.
Two conservative justices, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented with the court's opinion, writing that “there is no basis” for the other justices to conclude that the abortion clinic that sued the state over the law would "prevail in meeting their heavy burden" of proof in the case.
Justice Alan Lawson, appointed to the court after its November oral arguments in the case, did not vote.