TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the latest step of a years-long battle over abortion access in Florida, between the state government and a Gainesville women’s health center, judicial rulings have shifted course. The case began in 2015 and is separate from the recent legislative battle over the 15-week abortion ban that is House Bill 5.
A judge in Florida’s Leon County 2nd Circuit reversed the now nearly seven years long precedent and ordered a 24-hour hold time must be enacted between pregnant women receiving in-person counseling and going to have abortion operation performed.
The 24-hour hold was first legislated in 2015, when HB 633, called “Informed Patient Consent,” was passed on partisan lines in 2015 and became law.
As written, HB 633 requires that the physician who is performing an abortion procedure, or the physician referring a patient to an abortion performing doctor, must “while physically present in the same room, and at least 24 hours before the procedure” provide information to a pregnant woman about the “nature and risks of undergoing or not undergoing the proposed procedure” that a “reasonable patient” would need to make a “knowing and willful decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy.”
Gainesville-based Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, named “Gainesville Woman Care LLC” in the court filings, contested the effects of the law soon after it took effect while Rick Scott was governor of Florida.
In earlier court proceedings, an injunction was put in place, removing the 24-hour requirement. Now, a state trial court has reversed that ruling, instead requiring the 24 hours be held to before an abortion can be performed for a patient.
Planned Parenthood released a response to the change, saying the shift in policy would complicate the process of getting an abortion in addition to the coming 15-week abortion ban passed by the Florida Legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Crucially, this requirement will create additional logistical barriers for patients seeking abortion. The challenges pregnant people face in scheduling travel, childcare, and work arrangements to get doctors’ appointments 24 hours apart means the procedure could be forced later into the pregnancy, posing an unnecessary health risk,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement. “This ruling risks pushing care out of reach, and comes on the heels of the Florida Legislature’s extreme step of passing a ban on abortions after 15 weeks.”
While the law requires a 24-hour waiting period between counseling and abortion procedure, there was an exception provided in HB 633 for a waiver of the delay, if a woman presents her physician with “documentation evidencing that she is obtaining the abortion because she is a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence, or human trafficking.”
Those exceptions for rape, incest, domestic violence, or human trafficking were not included in HB 5, the 15-week abortion ban passed during the 2022 Florida legislative session.
Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Florida chapter. In their analysis of the case, and in response to the decision to reinstate the 24-hour delay, removing a previous court stay on enacting the policy, the ACLU wrote that HB 633 “jeopardizes patients’ health and undermines the privacy of Floridians’ abortion decisions.”
All critics of the law have so far called the delay itself “medically unnecessary.”