Criminal Law Would Have Forced a Woman’s Trusted Advisors to Register, Pay fee, and Deliver State-Mandated Speech Before Assisting a Woman Contemplating Abortion

September 29, 2017

NEW YORK — A federal judge has issued an order blocking a Florida law that made it a crime to advise or assist a woman seeking an abortion unless the person first delivered a state-mandated speech, registered with the state, and paid a fee.

The law also imposes special requirements on anyone counseling a minor about abortion by mandating that the advisor notify the minor’s parents.

The court condemned certain of the requirements as “hopelessly vague,” and held that the law violates the First Amendment because while it places no burdens on a “minister or other person” for giving advice or help to someone seeking “vaccinations or cancer treatment or an infinite variety of other services,” but does so if the person’s “advice or help” is for someone trying to obtain abortion care.

Responding to today’s order, ACLU of Florida legal director Nancy Abudu stated:

“This ill-considered and dangerous law criminalized conversations between confidants, including friends, relatives, clergy people, mental health workers, and a host of others. We will continue to do everything possible to protect the rights of both Florida women contemplating an abortion and those they turn to seeking compassion and advice.”

Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, had this response:

“This law is an example of how far Florida politicians are willing to go to compromise a woman’s right to access abortion. A woman’s trusted advisors, whom she turns to for personal and private conversations when considering abortion, should be free to provide compassionate support without the threat of criminal charges. We are very pleased that the court has blocked these dangerous requirements from causing further harm.”

Wesley Powell, an attorney with the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, had this response:

“The state’s attempts to impose restrictions on what Floridians can and cannot say are plainly wrong. The law demonstrates just how far politicians are willing to go to compromise a woman’s right to access abortion services and support. We’re glad the court saw through these mean-spirited attempts to push care out of reach.”

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, on behalf of three ministers, three rabbis, the Women’s Emergency Network, Emergency Medical Assistance, Inc., Palm Beach County Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and The Miami Workers Center.

More information about the case is available here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/fulwider-v-senior

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