Florida Supreme Court Temporarily Lifts 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

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Republicans in the state government for years have been slowly chipping away at women's reproductive health rights. Last year, they went further than they ever had by passing a law that required women to wait 24 hours after their initial consultation to undergo an abortion. 

That law has been caught up in the courts ever since, but after finally going into effect this past February, the state Supreme Court has agreed to temporarily suspend the waiting period while it considers whether to take up a case challenging the constitutionally of the law. 

Gainesville Women's Care and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed suit to block the law soon after it was passed. One day after going into effect in July 2015, a Leon County judge issued a temporary injunction against enforcement. 

Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the decision, and in February, a First District Court of Appeal ruled that the waiting period should go into effect. Abortion providers across the state have had to comply ever since, but in many cases, thanks to doctor unavailability, many women have had to wait multiple days. 

In a 5-2 decision, justices agreed the waiting period law should again be suspended. This isn't a guarantee that the court will take up the challenge to the law, but it seems to be a good indication that it will. 

“We are pleased that the Florida Supreme Court has agreed with the trial court that Florida women should not suffer this burden while there is an ongoing challenge to this unconstitutional law,” Nancy Abudu, legal director of the ACLU of Florida, stated in a statement. “Forcing women seeking an abortion to make multiple visits that are medically unnecessary especially burdens poor and working women and is potentially dangerous." 

The groups argue that the law interferes with a woman's constitutional right to make private medical decisions. 

Though Florida's state government has been controlled by Republicans for more than a decade and a half, the ideological makeup of the state Supreme Court still remains moderate if not slightly left-leaning. The court still includes two members appointed by the state's last Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles. A third was jointly appointed by Chiles and Jeb Bush. The remaining four were appointed by moderate then-Republican Charlie Crist.

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