Waiting period

Court of Appeals to hear challenge to Florida’s 24-hour waiting period

By Dave Andrusko

Judge Terry Lewis
AP Photo/Steve Cannon

The First District Court of Appeal has agreed to hear arguments in the case of a 2015 Florida law requiring that a woman be given 24 hours to consider her decision after she meets with an abortionist.

As we reported previously, last January Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the law was unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including that the state failed to show there was a “compelling state interest” for the 24-hour waiting period; didn’t show that it was enacted in the “least restrictive manner”; and violated the privacy clause of the state Constitution.

According to the News Service of Florida, Blaine Winship, a lawyer representing the state, had argued that “abortion procedures are an “outlier in medical practice” because

most other procedures are not performed on the same day that an initial consultation between a doctor and patient takes place.

“The Legislature has acted to bring abortions in line with standard medical practice,” Winship said. “Not out of hostility to the procedure but out of a legitimate concern that women must have the same opportunity for informed consent as patients have with respect with every other invasive procedure that the field of medicine offers.”

When Judge Lewis handed down his decision January 8, 2018, Florida Right to Life President Lynda Bell characterized the decision as “another case of judicial overreach” that “blocked enforcement of a commonsense law.”

“Abortion can have severe ramifications for girls or woman undergoing this surgical procedure,” Bell told NRL News Today. “Nowhere in this protective legislation was a woman barred from having an abortion. This valuable legislation just offers a pause and a time for reflection.”

Bell added, “Almost every surgical procedure requires a wait from consultation to surgery. Even a colonoscopy requires a visit to the doctor to discuss the procedure before being scheduled.”

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. HB 633 has been up and down the legal chain ever since.

The effect of Judge Lewis decision was to make permanent a temporary injunction granted by the Florida Supreme Court in 2017.

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