Despite last-ditch efforts to block a 24-hour abortion waiting period in Florida, the law went into effect Wednesday, with clinics across the state instructing patients seeking abortions to return at least 24 hours after a consultation to have the procedure. Though it's a big blow to pro-choice groups, the fight to block the new law isn't over yet.
That's because the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and the Center for Reproductive Rights are all suing the state on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, saying the waiting period is unconstitutional. While that lawsuit weaves its way through the courts, opponents hold onto hope that the law could ultimately be deemed unconstitutional.
"The law went into effect Wednesday, and we were in compliance," says Christopher M. Estes, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. "We knew it was coming, and we have been planning for this. But it's not something we’re just gonna roll over on."
On Tuesday, a day before the new law was set to go into effect, critics cheered as Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis issued a temporary injunction, preventing the law from being enforced while the legal challenge continues.
“The court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care," said Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the national ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. "This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”
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But immediately afterward, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office appealed Francis' decision with the First District Court of Appeals, triggering an automatic stay of his ruling. Attorneys for the ACLU then asked Francis to lift that automatic stay, which would allow his ruling to take effect while the case proceeds.
While the court works out the ruling, the law remains intact. The final decision could take months or more, maybe even going to the Supreme Court for a final decision.
In the meantime, Estes says he and his colleagues will continue to organize and educate about the law and its impact. And they continue to support the ACLU in its legal battle.
"The ACLU and groups pursuing this lawsuit are doing it on behalf of everyone," Estes says, "namely the women of Florida, who deserve a confidential consultation without interference. The reason we’re fighting this isn’t just because it changes way we run our offices. This is about how it adversely affects our patients. It just doesn’t make sense medically."