Florida Appeals Court Backs Waiting Period for Abortions

(CN) – A Florida appeals court reversed a ruling that struck down a law requiring women to wait 24 hours between being informed of abortion risks and having the procedure, finding that the lower court should have held a trial before declaring the law unconstitutional.

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

After former Republican Governor Rick Scott signed the waiting-period law in 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled in January 2018 that Florida’s 24-hour waiting period was unconstitutional, but that decision was overturned Thursday in a 2-1 decision from the state’s First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

“Rather than singling out and burdening abortion procedures with arbitrary requirements, the state’s evidence indicates that the 24-hour law brings abortion procedures in Florida into compliance with medical informed consent standards and tangibly improves health outcomes for women,” Judge Timothy Osterhaus wrote for the majority.

Osterhaus was joined in his opinion by Judge Harvey Jay.

The two judges sided with arguments made by the state that a 24-hour waiting period is needed for pregnant women to be able to provide informed consent before abortions are performed by a doctor.

Osterhaus wrote that the state’s evidence included declarations from two well-credentialed medical doctors asserting that a 24-hour waiting period is necessary to comply with the accepted medical standard of care for informed consent.

While the state’s evidence the first time around was “feeble,” it responded with more compelling evidence on appeal, according to the majority ruling.

“Because the facts must be construed favorably to the nonmovant state, and genuine issues of material fact remain at issue, we reverse and remand this matter to the trial court for additional proceedings,” the opinion states.

Judge James Wolf dissented, saying he agrees with the trial court hat the waiting period is unconstitutional.

“Discouraging people from exercising a constitutionally protected right does not constitute a compelling state interest,” he wrote.

Enforcement of the law has been blocked by a Florida Supreme Court injunction issued in 2017. The case will now return to Leon County, and the injunction will remain in place while it goes to trial.

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