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Supreme Court hears arguments over 24-hour abortion waiting period


The fate of a controversial law that requires women see a doctor and wait 24 hours before having an abortion is now in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court.

Justices heard arguments Tuesday morning over whether to keep in place an injunction that has blocked the waiting period from being enforced for most of the last year and a half.

A Tallahassee circuit judge agreed to block the law while a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic moves forward.

The Supreme Court won't yet rule on whether the law is constitutional, but because a lawsuit over constitutionality could take years, the justices' ruling could determine, for years to come, if the 24-hour waiting period goes into effect.

Still, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the state argued in court over how the law impacts a guarantee of privacy in the Florida Constitution that courts have ruled protects women's right to have an abortion if they choose.

"Privacy infringement is apparent as a matter of law because the state is telling a woman that she cannot exercise a fundamental constitutional right for a 24-hour period," said Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

Lawyers for the state argued that state lawmakers were justified in passing the law in 2015.

Society has an interest in people making important decisions after giving them proper consideration, said Denise Harle, the state's deputy solicitor general.

"The waiting period is not because it's a medical procedure," Harle said. "It's a waiting period because it's an irreversible, life-altering decision on the level of other things like marriage, divorce or giving up your child for adoption."

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