Florida’s 15-Week Abortion Ban Heads to State Supreme Court

Florida Abortion Providers File a Notice of Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
August 10, 2022 6:15 pm

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida health care providers today sought review in the Florida Supreme Court in their case challenging the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (House Bill 5). The move comes after lower courts repeatedly closed off meaningful legal avenues to block HB 5. Plaintiffs argue that the law — which criminalizes essential healthcare and threatens to imprison doctors for providing care to their patients — violates the state constitution. Plaintiffs plan to submit a formal brief within the next 10 days asking the state supreme court to accept jurisdiction over the case and consider their request to block HB 5, which has been in effect since July 1.

The trial court, which heard evidence from multiple witnesses, issued an injunction against the law in early July after concluding that the ban likely violates the state constitution and will cause irreparable harm to Floridians. However, that order was automatically stayed under Florida law when the state appealed the case to the First District Court of Appeal, despite the ban’s blatant violation of a right that Floridians have relied on for decades and that the Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed. The First District Court of Appeal’s most recent decision held that the plaintiffs — a group of Florida abortion providers — could not rely on the harm the ban is causing their patients as a reason to block the law, essentially closing the providers’ legal challenge to the law. This ruling directly contradicts how the Florida Supreme Court has evaluated challenges to abortion laws in the past.

Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:

Whitney White, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

“The court’s decision to ignore the harm this ban is causing to people in Florida today is as unconscionable as it is legally unprecedented. The state constitution is clear that women and anyone who needs an abortion have a right to access that health care. To deny them that fundamental right not only ignores long-standing protections under the Florida constitution, it is life-threatening, putting patients’ health, wellbeing, and futures at risk. The Florida supreme court has reaffirmed Floridians’ right to abortion time and time again, and nothing about the law has changed since politicians overreached in their pursuit to take away reproductive health care. We hope the court honors its prior precedents and takes up our request to put an end to the nightmare patients in Florida have suffered through for over a month.”

Daniel Tilley, legal director, ACLU of Florida:

“The decision about whether, when, or how to become a parent is one of the most deeply personal decisions we make. Every person, including all Floridians, should be free to make this decision without government intrusion. This is a principle that the Florida state constitution has upheld for decades. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will and face the life-altering consequences of being denied this essential health care. Unfortunately, that is the state envisioned by Gov. Ron DeSantis and certain Florida politicians. The Florida Supreme Court has the power to block this dangerous law, and we hope it stands for Floridians’ right to privacy.”

Statement from Autumn Katz, Managing Senior Counsel, Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Our challenge to Florida’s 15-week ban has been obstructed every step of the way, and we hope the state Supreme Court will block this devastating law ​and restore Floridian’s ability to access vital health care after 15 weeks of pregnancy. For ​too long, Floridians have been forced to travel across multiple state lines just to obtain services, or to continue an unwanted pregnancy—even if it endangers their health. We are urging the Florida Supreme Court to step in and uphold the state constitution to protect Floridians’ fundamental rights.”

Statement from Kelly Flynn, president & CEO, A Woman’s Choice clinics:

“Florida’s devastating ban and countless abortion restrictions have pushed abortion care further and further out of reach for our patients. Politicians have turned their backs on Floridians, but we hope that the Florida Supreme Court will finally put an end to the harms being inflicted on pregnant people in the state. Our patients know what is best for themselves and their families, and we will do everything in our power to protect abortion access in Florida.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Every day this abortion ban is in effect is another day that patients are being forced to carry preganancies against their will or flee their home state to access essential health care. The lower courts’ refusal to take action is putting real lives at risk, especially for Black and Latino people, people with low incomes, and people in rural areas, who already face immense barriers to accessing care. Enough is enough. We hope the Florida Supreme Court will move quickly to restore patients’ right to access abortion care as is clearly guaranteed by the state constitution. No matter your race, ZIP code, or income, Planned Parenthood will never stop fighting for every person’s ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and futures without political interference.”

Stephanie Fraim, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida:

“Providers are personally and ethically impacted by this ban – we bring this lawsuit to the Florida courts because of the harm this ban is causing our patients. Planned Parenthood and our physicians are on the front lines every day, we see the harm this is causing because we care, every day, for patients who need this care. We will continue to fight this dangerous abortion ban until the court recognizes that it is an unconstitutional intrusion on our patients’ and providers’ medical decisions. Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida will continue to support all abortion providers and the patients who turn to them for high-quality, nonjudgmental care.”

Shoba Pillay, partner, Jenner & Block:

“Despite the court’s continued refusal to block House Bill 5, we plan to take this case to the Florida Supreme Court to keep fighting for the constitutional rights of all Floridians. We will do everything we can to ensure the voices of Floridians are represented and their power is not taken away.”

Despite overwhelming opposition to banning abortion among Florida voters and health care professionals, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 5 into law earlier this year. Since going into effect on July 1, the law has forced people to carry pregnancies against their will, subjecting them to the life-altering — and sometimes life-threatening — consequences of pregnancy.

HB 5 continues to violate Floridians’ dignity and bodily autonomy, endangering their families, their health, and their lives. Making reproductive healthcare inaccessible in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis, will disproportionately harm Black women, who are nearly three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth or shortly after.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the federal constitutional right to abortion, HB 5 remains blatantly unconstitutional under the state constitution. 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. 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, which would have taken those protections away.

This law is yet another barrier to essential care in a state where abortion access has been under attack for years. Floridians already face burdensome restrictions to getting an abortion — including 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. There are also many other barriers to access for people who need abortion care, including delays in finding out they’re pregnant, coordinating transportation, difficulty affording essential health care, and a lack of nearby providers.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the 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; A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville; and an individual physician plaintiff.

An overview of the case and the complaint can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/planned-parenthood-southwest-and-central-florida-et-al-v-state-florida-et-al

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