Florida appeals court says OK to 24-hour wait for abortion

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Christian Examiner/JBH)

TALLAHASSEE (Christian Examiner) – Women in Florida will have to wait 24 hours for an abortion after a state appeals court lifted an injunction imposed by a lower court.

In the court's ruling Feb. 26, judges said the lower court had erred on multiple counts when it imposed the injunction on the waiting period last year after House Bill 633 was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. The law was only in effect for a single day before the lower court tried to squash it.

The unanimous ruling of the judges on the 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee said the plaintiffs in the case, Gainseville Woman Care, LLC, had failed to demonstrate that the 24-hour waiting period caused irreparable harm to women seeking an abortion.

The three-judge panel also said the lower court had shifted the burden of proof to the state to disprove the notion that the law created an obstruction to a woman's right to an abortion (under the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade). Instead, the court said the plaintiffs had to offer affirmative evidence that the law impeded access to abortion.

"The party moving for a temporary injunction must make a showing sufficient to satisfy each of four prerequisites: likelihood of irreparable harm, lack of adequate legal remedy, substantial likelihood of success on the merits, and that the public interest supports the injunction," the judges said in their ruling.

According to the ruling, the trial court had only conducted a one-hour hearing on the matter, called no witnesses for the state, but only made a declaration that the law violated the four-point test they described in the ruling.

Under the provisions of HB 633, women seeking an abortion would have to make two trips to the doctor before receiving an abortion. One of those meetings has to be 24-hours before the abortion is scheduled to take place. Women who are able to document rape, incest or becoming pregnant through sexual slavery in human trafficking are exempted from the waiting period.

Alliance Defending Freedom praised the decision of the appellate court. Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with the group, said Florida's 24-hour waiting period "is a common sense measure that simply gives women and teens "one day to think about have a procedure that is potentially life-changing and fraught with risks."

"Basic health standards should not allow for 'drop-in abortions.' The court has done the right thing in allowing this good law to go into effect," Aden said.

The decision, however, was casted by Planned Parenthood of Florida and a significant blow to women's rights. The group said in a Facebook post that Florida's "gynoticians" said the law hurts, rather than helps a woman by demeaning and shaming her.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida also opposed the implementation of the bill. In a press release after the appeals court lifted the ban, staff attorney July Kaye said the ruling will hurt women and place "unnecessary roadblocks" in front of them.

Autumn Katz, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, also said her group will continue to fight the law.

"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," Katz said.