Florida's 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period to Take Effect

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By The Associated Press and Elisha Fieldstadt

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appeals court on Friday ordered the enforcement of a state law that that requires women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

The 1st District Court of Appeal lifted an injunction that blocked the waiting period from taking effect. In its decision, the three-judge panel contended that a circuit judge did not have enough facts or evidence to support blocking the law.

Judge Charles Francis had blocked the law one day before the waiting period was scheduled to take effect. Francis is chief judge for the north Florida circuit that includes the state capital.

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The waiting period law was passed last year by the Florida Legislature. During last year's session, abortion was the subject of emotional debate. Democrats complained the bill was simply an effort to put up roadblocks to infringe on women's rights to an abortion; Republicans said women should have to wait before making such a major decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic. The lawsuit argued that the 24-hour waiting period created a burden that violated a right to privacy in Florida's constitution.

“When a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs compassionate care — not insulting and potentially dangerous delays mandated by politicians who presume to know better,” said Autumn Katz, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who worked on the case.

A statement from the Center for Reproductive Rights Friday said that waiting periods are especially burdensome of women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships because it forces them to spend additional travel time and funds, in addition to other challenges.

“A woman who has decided to have an abortion should be able to get one without the state putting up unnecessary roadblocks to prevent her from getting the care she needs,” said Julia Kaye, Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, according to the statement.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that this demeaning and intrusive law is stopped in its tracks,” said Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida.

The law has exceptions for victims of rape, incest, domestic abuse or human trafficking if women present their doctors with a police report, restraining order or similar documentation.

Elisha Fieldstadt reported from New York.