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  1. Florida Politics

Last-minute attempt to stop Florida's new abortion waiting period falls short

The ACLU is asking Judge Charles Francis to block the law.
The ACLU is asking Judge Charles Francis to block the law.
Published Jul. 1, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's abortion waiting period does not have to wait to go into effect today, but that doesn't mean the fight is over.

Tuesday evening, a last-minute legal battle cast uncertainty over a new state law requiring women to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion. Though opponents were not immediately successful, a judge could still act as soon as this week to block the law.

Tuesday afternoon, opponents were encouraged when Chief Judge Charles Francis in Leon County issued a temporary injunction that ensured women seeking abortions would not be subject to the waiting period while a lawsuit works its way through the courts.

It didn't take long, however, for Attorney General Pam Bondi's office to appeal the decision to the 1st District Court of Appeal, triggering an automatic stay on Francis' ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union quickly requested that Francis, an appointee of former Gov. Jeb Bush, lift the stay. That would mean his initial ruling for an injunction could go forward and at least temporarily block the new law.

Lawyers with the ACLU say they hope Francis will decide to lift the stay in the next day or two.

Any temporary injunction would have no impact on the lawsuit itself. Rather, it's intended to maintain the status quo until the judge decides the case.

In the meantime, the law goes into effect. Women who want an abortion must visit the clinic and return 24 hours later for the procedure.

With an issue as high-profile and contentious as abortion, it's possible resolving the injunction could weave its way into the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, Renee Paradis, a New York-based ACLU lawyer working on the case, said last week.

The court battle started when the ACLU sued the state on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, saying the waiting period is unconstitutional because it creates a substantial burden to women who want an abortion. In particular, they say women who cannot take much time off from work and those who live far from a clinic will be most affected.

Opponents also say the requirement runs afoul of strict privacy rights in Florida's Constitution.

The state has argued that the waiting period law is legal under the Constitution and that there's no reason the law's implementation should be delayed.

Supporters modeled the law after waiting periods on the books in more than a dozen other states. They say that a waiting period ensures that women have ample time to consider an abortion before undergoing the procedure and that the law makes it harder for women to be coerced into ending a pregnancy.

The ACLU's suit came within a day of Gov. Rick Scott signing the waiting period into law June 10. Last week, the governor reiterated his support for the measure, saying he is "absolutely pro-life."

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

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