Florida Judge blocks 15 week abortion ban, says it violates Florida’s Constitution

“Florida passed into its constitution an explicit right to privacy that is not contained in the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

Cooper cited Section 23 of the state constitution, which states: “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein.”

“The Florida Supreme Court has determined Florida’s privacy’s provision is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision in whether or not to continue her pregnancy,” he said.

Cooper noted that the federal standard is not the same as the state standard.

Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida and other reproductive health care providers challenged Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy on Monday at a state court in Tallahassee.

Attorneys representing Planned Parenthood argued in front of Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper that the ban violates the privacy rights that are protected by the state’s constitution.

Cooper said he needed time to read the depositions and reconvene on Thursday to listen to closing arguments before being able to make a decision.

“I want to do the job the best I can do,” Cooper said adding that he is likely to announce his ruling late Thursday.

Today he did.

The ban, set to go into effect Friday, will be blocked for now. Those who violate the law would have faced a five-year prison sentence, loss of medical licensure and a $10,000 fine per violation.

House Bill 5, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in April, reduces the existing 24-week ban starting on Friday. The new law doesn’t include exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking.

“HB 5 directly impacts the sanctity and the privacy of the physician-patient relationship,” Dr. Shelly Tien, a gynecologist for Planned Parenthood, said during her testimony on Monday in Leon County court.

Dr. Ingrid Skop, an obstetrician from Texas, testified in support of the 15-week ban. Skop is the director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion group with The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

“I believe that setting an abortion limit at 15 weeks will significantly improve the safety for women undergoing abortion,” Skop said. “I believe that there is significant data that abortions become substantially more difficult and dangerous after the 15 week of gestation.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, and the law firm Jenner & Block filed the lawsuit on June 1.

“We will do everything in our power to block this cruel attack on Floridians’ fundamental right to get the care they need,” Daniel Tilley, ACLU of Florida’s legal director, said in a statement after the filing.

They are representing Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida; Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida; Gainesville Woman Care; Indian Rocks Woman’s Center; St. Petersburg Woman’s Health Center; Tampa Woman’s Health Center; and A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville.

Tien said limiting access to abortions will mostly affect women and girls who are living in poverty.

“Patients may need abortion care after 15 weeks for many reasons, whether it be related to a health condition that develops as the pregnancy progresses, or delays to care directly related to inequitable access to medical care,” Tien said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.

April Otterberg, a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, also released a statement saying HB5 unconstitutionally limits an individual’s right to access abortion services and the lawsuit seeks to block its implementation.

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