Health News

ACLU joins lawsuit claiming new Florida abortion wait law is unconstitutional

ACLU joins lawsuit claiming 24-hour wait is unconstitutional

TALLAHASSEE -- Less than 24 hours after Gov. Rick Scott signed a controversial new abortion law, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state, asking a court to rule it unconstitutional.

Under the law, women would be required to see a doctor and wait 24 hours before having an abortion. The lawsuit filed Thursday says this is an "undue burden" that violates women's rights to privacy under the Florida Constitution.

The CRR and ACLU have asked a judge in Leon County to act quickly to stop the law from going into effect July 1, calling it "a sweeping restriction on Florida women's ability to access abortion services, unprecedented in this state."

Further, it argues, the law doesn't protect women who face health risks or do enough for those who are victims of rape, incest and domestic violence. To avoid the 24-hour wait, women would have to provide a police report, court order or medical document.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Gainesville Woman Care, which runs an abortion clinic, and Medical Students for Choice, which advocates for future doctors to learn more about abortion in schools.

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek are named in the lawsuit. An AHCA spokesperson said the agency has not had a chance to review the suit and that it does not comment on pending litigation.

During the legislative session this spring, pro-choice opponents of the bill repeatedly argued the proposal is restrictive because of its effects on low-income women who cannot easily take time off work and pay for child care to go to a clinic one time, let alone twice.

"It's clear that the sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do," said Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.

Supporters insist that isn't the case.

State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, who sponsored the new legislation, says the bill won't create an undue burden and is clearly constitutional.

"It's something that, when I wrote the language, I gave a lot of care to," Sullivan told the Times/Herald on Wednesday.

She says it's an important policy change to protect women from being persuaded into having an abortion without being able to give it serious thought.

Similar waiting periods, ranging from 18 to 72 hours, are in effect in 25 other states. In at least two -- Massachusetts and Montana -- court orders have stopped laws from being enforced.