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Judge Blocks Florida’s 15-Week Abortion Ban From Going Into Effect

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) speaks to supporters before signing a 15-week abortion ban into law on April 14.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) speaks to supporters before signing a 15-week abortion ban into law on April 14.
Associated Press

A Florida judge on Thursday blocked a 15-week abortion ban from going into effect Friday.

“The statute in section House Bill 5 is unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida constitution,” Circuit Judge John Cooper said.

Cooper issued a statewide temporary injunction that will only be effective once he signs an order, which he noted “will not be today.” It’s not clear whether he will sign the order before the law goes into effect on Friday, July 1, but the temporary injunction will block the ban from taking effect before a next hearing is set.

“Florida passed into its constitution an explicit right to privacy that is not contained in the U.S. Constitution. The Florida Supreme Court has determined in its words, ‘Florida’s privacy provision is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision of whether or not to continue her pregnancy,’” Cooper said in his ruling. “In other words, on the issue of abortion, the Florida Supreme Court has decided that women have a privacy right under the state constitution to not have that right impacted up to 24 weeks at least.”

The 15-week abortion restriction was extremely contentious, with no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. It allowed exceptions only if the mother was at risk of serious injury or death or if the fetus had a fatal abnormality. The law made it a crime to provide an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and threatened physicians with a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Florida health care providers filed the lawsuit on June 1, arguing that the law goes against Florida’s state constitution. Several organizations that support abortion rights, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, filed the suit.

“We’re glad the court recognized Florida’s abortion ban is a cruel attack on people’s health, futures, and state constitutional rights,” Whitney White, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

The ban on its own would have had devastating consequences for abortion care in the Southeast, but it likely would have been worse given the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“While Floridians may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief, make no mistake, abortion access is in real peril in our state,” Kelly Flynn, president and CEO of A Woman’s Choice clinics, said in a statement. “There has been chaos and confusion among patients since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We cannot let Florida turn the clock back. Our patients shouldn’t have to worry if and when they can access abortion care, and we will continue to fight to protect their health and lives.”

The ban was fast-tracked in the Florida Legislature after state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Erin Grall, both Republicans, proposed the companion measures S.B. 146 and H.B. 5 in January. The bills were quietly tucked inside legislation to revise the state’s Tobacco Education and Use Prevention program.

“We are here today to protect life. We are here today to defend those who can’t defend themselves,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said during the bill signing in April.

Under current law, Florida allows abortions through the first trimester or up to 24 weeks. The restriction was modeled after a 15-week abortion ban passed in 2018 in Mississippi, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case that was the impetus behind the fall of Roe.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the judge’s decision.

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