By Dave Andrusko
In the latest of a long series of decisions, the Florida Supreme Court today blocked a law requiring that a pregnant woman meet with an abortionist and wait 24-hours before she can have an abortion.
“The opinion, written by Justice Barbara Pariente in a 4-2 decision, reverses a lower court opinion and upholds a temporary injunction against the law,” explained Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel. “The underlying case, however, was sent back to the appeal court.” (More about that below.)
Justice Pariente, citing the state Constitution’s right to privacy, concluded the 2015 law has a “substantial likelihood” of being ruled unconstitutional.
“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 Pariente wrote.
Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented. They wrote “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,” according to Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald.
The seventh justice was appointed after oral arguments heard in November. As a result Justice Alan Lawson did not vote.
The lawsuit was originally brought by Bread and Roses, a Gainesville, Florida, abortion clinic, and other abortion-rights activists. They maintained the requirement creates an “undue burden” and violates the state Constitution’s right of privacy.
Pro-life Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 633 into law June 10, 2015. Two weeks later, Circuit Court Judge Charles Francis agreed with the plaintiffs and prevented the law from going into effect, scheduled for July 1.
But the state appealed to Florida’s First District Court of Appeals. On February 26, 2016, the court reversed the injunction order and immediately reinstated the law. However the abortion clinic and the pro-abortion group appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
On April 2016, in a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court halted the law and its protections until the justices made a decision whether to take the case. A month later, the Court formally accepted the case for review.
Technically, the state Supreme Court has not ruled on whether the law is constitutional — only on its own injunction that keeps it from going into effect. “A lawsuit over constitutionality will likely continue but could take years to complete,” Auslen reported.
Florida Right to Life President Lynda Bell told NRL News Today, ”An abortion takes the life of an unborn child and could affect the woman/girl for the rest of her life. It is certainly not unreasonable to provide time to reflect before making that life-altering decision.”