MIAMI — A Florida law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy violates privacy protections in the State Constitution, a state judge ruled on Thursday, a day before the new restrictions effective.
Judge John C. Cooper of the Second Circuit Court in Tallahassee ruled from the bench that the law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in April, will not be executed now. Florida now allows abortions up to 24 weeks, making the state a hiding place for women seeking procedures from across the Southeast states with tighter restrictions.
Judge Cooper said he would issue a statewide temporary order. It won’t be binding until he signs a written order, which the judge said won’t happen on Thursday. The ban goes into effect at midnight.
Judge Cooper granted relief by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union after a two-day hearing that sparked a nation’s divisive debate over human rights. abortion. Hearings start on mondaythree days after the Supreme Court pass Roe v. Wadeabolished the constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years.
The state is expected to appeal Judge Cooper’s ruling. The matter will most likely end up before the Florida Supreme Court, which previously invoked a privacy amendment voters wrote into the 1980 State Constitution to block further abortion restrictions. effective. But Mr DeSantis has reshaped the court after several retirements and made it much more cautious. He appointed three of the court’s seven judges. Four other judges were also appointed by Republican governors.
From comments: The End of Roe v. Wade
Comments by Times Opinion writers and journalists on the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion.
Similar legal battle playing in other states, where various plaintiffs argue that their state constitutions provide specific protections for abortion. On Thursday, a Kentucky judge temporarily blocked an abortion ban brought by a Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade last week. That law, passed in 2019, called for a near-total ban on the procedure and has led clinics to turn away patients.
As in Florida and other states, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the Kentucky Constitution protects the right to an abortion. In the end, however, the court battle in Kentucky may be short-lived. In November, voters there will consider a measure that confirms there is no state constitutional right to abortion.
Florida law bans abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, similar to the Mississippi statute at the heart of the Supreme Court case that overturned the Roe v. Wade case.
The DeSantis government argues that restricting abortion will protect the health of mothers, who will no longer face the increased risks of having the procedure performed later in pregnancy.
“They could have had them earlier, it would have been safer,” said James H. Percival, deputy attorney general.
However, plaintiffs’ attorneys countered that many women seeking abortions after 15 weeks did so because difficult circumstances prevented them from attempting the procedure earlier, including learning about fetal abnormalities from these types of tests cannot be performed until later. pregnancy. Florida’s current 24-week ban is intended to limit abortions after the fetus is still alive outside the uterus.
Whitney Leigh White, an attorney for the ACLU, said: “Neither concern for maternal health nor concern for fetal survival cannot support a pre-viability moratorium.
Judge Cooper asserted in court that the matter at issue in Florida was the State Constitution. “I’m here to argue privacy in Florida,” he said Monday. “I’m not here to sue Roe and Wade.”
But for the most part Testimony is still focused about the safety of abortion, when life begins and when the fetus can feel pain. More than 79,000 abortions were performed in Florida last year.
Dr. Shelly Tien, a gynecologist who performs abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Jacksonville as well as at a clinic in Arizona, testified that women who seek abortions after 15 weeks often do so within time of crisis.
“Women and girls needing an abortion after 15 weeks have the most difficult and attractive circumstances in life,” she said.
Testifying on behalf of the state, Dr Ingrid Skop, senior fellow and medical director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research organization, described abortion as “more difficult and more dangerous. much after the 15th week of pregnancy” and criticized the state of data collection around the country.
“We underestimate the complications from abortion,” she said.
In a separate case, a synagogue in South Florida also challenged 15 week ban.
In the days since the Roe v. Wade case was ousted, Republican leaders in Florida have hinted at pursuing further abortion restrictions, without detailing how far they might go.
Florida “will work to expand life-protection measures,” DeSantis said in a statement last Friday. He avoided questions regarding the abortion during a public event on Monday.
Opinion surveys have shown that, unlike in some other Southern states, a majority of Floridians support legal abortion.
Alexandra Glorious Reporting contributions from Tallahassee, Fla.