TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge on Tuesday blocked a new state law that requires women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion, but state officials quickly appealed the decision.
Judge Charles Francis ruled one day before the waiting period was scheduled to take effect. Francis is chief judge for the north Florida circuit that includes the state capital.
Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the decision, which under court procedures stayed the ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said it intended to ask Francis to reinstate his injunction on Tuesday evening.
The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued after Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the waiting period into law earlier this month. The groups argued that the law violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the state constitution by interfering with the right of women to undergo the procedure.
"We are very pleased that the court saw this law for what it is: an unconstitutional attack on the right of Florida women to make their own choices about their healthcare, including abortion," ACLU of Florida Legal Director Nancy Abudu said in a written statement about the ruling by Francis.
Florida was scheduled to become the 27th state to have a mandatory waiting period and backers of the measure had predicted the law would withstand a legal challenge. They said the law would create a reflective period that they hoped would change some women's minds before ending their pregnancies.
Abortion was the subject of emotional debate during the Legislature's regular session that ended May 1. Democrats complained the bill was simply an effort to put up roadblocks to infringe on women's rights to an abortion while Republicans said women should have to wait before making such a major decision.
But in his ruling Francis, who was first appointed to the bench by former Gov. Jeb Bush, wrote that state officials did not demonstrate why the new law is not a burden on privacy rights. He also stated that it didn't matter that other states have similar laws since Florida's right of privacy is broader.
"After an evidentiary hearing, the court has no evidence in front of it in which to make any factual determination that a 24-hour waiting period with the accompanying second trip necessitated by the same is not an additional burden on a woman's right to privacy," wrote Francis in his decision.
The Scott administration had no immediate reaction to the ruling. But at the time the lawsuit was filed the governor defended the new requirement.
"As a parent and a grandparent, the sanctity of life is important to me. This 24 hour waiting period is an important step to protecting life while ensuring there is more time to make a life-changing decision," Scott said through a spokeswoman.
The law has exceptions for victims of rape, incest, domestic abuse or human trafficking if women present their doctors with a police report, restraining order or similar documentation backing their claim. But the lawsuit said requiring documentation in those cases is meaningless because the majority of victims don't report those crimes.