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State court to decide on Florida 15-week abortion ban lawsuit

Planned Parenthood seeks emergency injunction
Participants in pro-choice rally at Old School Square Park in Delray Beach, June 24, 2022
Posted at 6:16 PM, Jun 26, 2022

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A state court is being asked to block a new Florida law which bans most abortions after 15 weeks just days after a conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority overturned a landmark case that had provided constitutional protections for women seeking abortions for almost 50 years.

Planned Parenthood centers in Florida and other reproductive health providers on Monday are asking a Florida judge in Tallahassee to issue a temporary, emergency injunction stopping the new law passed by a GOP-controlled Florida Legislature from taking effect on Friday.

The new law prohibits abortions beyond 15 weeks except to save the pregnant woman's life or prevent physical harm, as well as in cases where the fetus has a fatal abnormality. A violator of the third-degree felony could face up to five years in prison, and physicians and other medical professionals who violate the law could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation. Under current law, Florida had allowed abortions up to 24 weeks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up 15-week abortion ban law after signing it, April 15, 2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a 15-week abortion ban law after signing it Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Kissimmee, Fla. The move comes amid a growing conservative push to restrict abortion ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit access to the procedure nationwide.

"The ban is blatantly unconstitutional under the state constitution," the ACLU of Florida said in a statement. The ACLU of Florida and other civil rights groups are representing the plaintiffs.

In 1980, Florida voters amended the state constitution to guarantee a broad right of privacy, which includes the right to abortion, the abortion providers said in court papers.

Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy again in 2012 by rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened its protections and would have prohibited state courts from interpreting the Florida Constitution to provide stronger protection for abortion than federal law, they said.

"Despite Florida's history of protecting the right to abortion, the Florida Legislature recently engaged in a brazen attempt to override the will of the Florida people," the abortion providers said. "It will deny Floridians autonomy over their own bodies and undermine their ability to make deeply personal decisions about their lives, families and health care free of government interference."

But the state of Florida in court papers asked the Florida judge to reject the request, saying those who are challenging the lawsuit have failed to show they will suffer "irreparable harm" if the injunction isn't granted. The state of Florida also argued that the abortion providers don't have standing to make a claim of a personal right to privacy since they are acting as third parties on behalf of their patients.

"In other words, doctors are not irreparably harmed simply because they cannot perform a procedure prohibited by state law," attorneys for the state of Florida said.

Separately, a South Florida synagogue also is challenging the legality of Florida's new abortion law, claiming it violates religious freedom rights of Jews in addition to the state constitution’s privacy protections. The lawsuit filed by the Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach contends the law violates Jewish teachings, which state abortion "is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman" and for other reasons.

The Florida law mirrors a similar measure passed in Mississippi, which a conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court used to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.