Planned Parenthood and ACLU Hail Florida Appeals Court Decision Striking Down Law that Would Have Forced Physicians to Give Patients Irrelevant Information

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
October 13, 2004 12:00 am

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union today hailed a state court of appeals decision striking down Florida’s so-called “Women’s Right to Know Act” because it would have forced abortion providers to give inappropriate and potentially harmful information to their patients. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the challenge.

“Today’s decision respects women’s fundamental right to privacy,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “This law would have allowed politicians to interfere in the intensely private medical decisions between a doctor and a patient.”

All Florida health care providers are required by law to provide their patients with appropriate information specific to their circumstances. To the contrary, the law in question would have singled out abortion providers and forced them to give irrelevant information to their patients.

In today’s ruling, the District Court of Appeal of Florida’s Fourth District concluded that the law violated the express right to privacy in the Florida Constitution. The court held that, “by not allowing a physician to tailor the [provided] information to the woman’s circumstances, [the Act] infringes on the woman’s ability to receive her physician’s opinion as to what is best for her.”

“The court recognized this law for what it is – an attempt to straightjacket physicians by requiring them to give all patients, regardless of their circumstances, the same information,” said Donna Lee, an attorney with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and counsel for the groups submitting the supporting brief. “Under this law, for example, doctors would have had to discuss the option of carrying a pregnancy to term with rape and incest survivors who wanted abortions.”

In September 2002, the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Palm Beach County permanently enjoined the law. The state appealed that decision. On appeal, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU urged the court to uphold the lower court’s decision on the ground that the law impermissibly interferes with women’s privacy rights under the Florida Constitution.

The case is State v. Presidential Women’s Center, Case No. 4D02-4485. It was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The groups joining the friend-of-the-court brief included several Planned Parenthood health centers in Florida affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, ACLU of Florida, and the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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