Florida Health Centers Challenge 15-Week Abortion Ban in State Court

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
June 1, 2022 8:00 am

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida health care providers filed a lawsuit bringing a state constitutional challenge earlier today to House Bill 5, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that threatens to put doctors in jail for providing essential care beyond that point. Abortion providers in the case are asking the court to block the ban from taking effect on July 1.

Two-thirds of Floridians support the right to abortion and voters have consistently cast their ballot to ensure that the state constitution provides independent protection for the right to abortion. HB 5 is blatantly unconstitutional under the state constitution. In 1980, Florida voters amended the state constitution to provide broad protections for individual privacy rights — including abortion. And in 2012, voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 6 that would have taken those protections away. These protections will remain in place regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on federal abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Florida’s 15-week ban would have devastating effects on abortion access in the state and surrounding region. Floridians already face burdensome restrictions to getting an abortion — such as a ban on insurance plans on the state exchange covering abortion; a parental consent requirement that makes it harder for young people to get abortions; and a law that requires people to make an additional, unnecessary trip to an abortion provider before receiving care, which took effect in April. There are also many other barriers to access for people who need abortion care, including: delays in finding out they’re pregnant; difficulty affording essential health care; and a lack of nearby providers.

HB 5 will force Floridians to remain pregnant against their will, violating their dignity and bodily autonomy, and endangering their families, their health, and even their lives. The impacts of pushing reproductive health care out of reach in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis will fall hardest on Black women, who are nearly three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth, or shortly after.

Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:

Daniel Tilley, legal director, ACLU of Florida:

“This law blatantly rejects Floridians’ need for essential abortion care and their strong support for the right to get an abortion. Not only does HB 5 defy the will of the people, it ignores the real life circumstances of people who need an abortion and deliberately puts them in harm’s way. With the U.S. Supreme Court threatening to take away the federal right to abortion, we will do everything in our power to block this cruel attack on Floridians’ fundamental right to get the care they need.”

Nancy Northup, president & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The Florida Supreme Court has long held that their state constitution protects the right to end a pregnancy. That means even if Roe falls, abortion should remain protected in Florida, and this ban should be blocked. There are so many reasons that people need abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy, especially people struggling to make ends meet who need time to secure the funds. Young people in Florida must get parental consent to have an abortion or permission from a judge, which can be a lengthy process. Politicians are simultaneously making it impossible to get an abortion early in pregnancy and then banning abortion later in pregnancy. It’s a calculated Catch-22.”

Dr. Shelly Tien, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist and provider of abortion care, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida:

"When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, patients and their families make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones, consistent with their values and beliefs. 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, which is especially pronounced for women and girls living in poverty. Of further concern, restricting abortion access will result in forced pregnancies, forced childbirth, and for some, forced parenting (some families may not feel that making an adoption plan is an option for them). Everyone should have the fundamental right to make these deeply personal decisions that profoundly impact the arc of their lives within the privacy of the physician-patient relationship.”

April Otterberg, partner, Jenner & Block LLP

“HB5 unconstitutionally limits an individual’s right to access abortion services, a right that is protected by the Florida state constitution. Today’s lawsuit seeks to block the implementation of this law and asks the court system to uphold and protect the rights enshrined in the state constitution.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm Jenner & Block filed this lawsuit on behalf of 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.

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