Fed­eral judge blocks changes to Florida's abor­tion law

South Florida Times - - HEALTH -

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE, Fla. - A fed­eral judge has blocked a Florida law that would re­quire peo­ple and groups that pro­vide abor­tion ad­vice to reg­is­ter with the state and fur­nish women with a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of the pro­ce­dure and al­ter­na­tives.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hin­kle is­sued the rul­ing late Fri­day say­ing that the law­suit filed by a min­is­ter, two rab­bis, the Palm Beach chap­ter of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Women and oth­ers would likely suc­ceed at trial. The plaintiffs ar­gued that the 2016 law would com­pel them to pay a $200 fee and make state­ments they dis­agreed with and weren't qual­i­fied to make. The plaintiffs don't pro­vide abor­tions but make referrals. They re­ceive no gov­ern­ment funds.

The state's at­tor­neys ar­gued the plaintiffs had not been harmed by the law, that it wasn't be­ing en­forced and that there was no penalty for not reg­is­ter­ing.

Hin­kle, who was ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 1996, said the ad­vice the plaintiffs pro­vide is pro­tected by the First Amend­ment, so the state can­not usu­ally re­quire them to reg­is­ter and pay a fee. He pointed out the state does not re­quire sim­i­lar in­di­vid­u­als and groups giv­ing ad­vice on cancer treat­ment, vac­cines and other le­gal med­i­cal pro­ce­dures to reg­is­ter, only abor­tion.

He called a pro­vi­sion “hope­lessly vague” that re­quires women and the par­ents of girls who seek abor­tion ad­vice re­ceive “a full and de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of abor­tion, in­clud­ing the ef­fects of and al­ter­na­tives to abor­tion.”

Nancy Abudu, le­gal direc­tor for the American Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Florida, is­sued a state­ment say­ing, “This ill-con­sid­ered and dan­ger­ous law crim­i­nal­ized con­ver­sa­tions be­tween con­fi­dants, in­clud­ing friends, rel­a­tives, clergy peo­ple, men­tal health work­ers, and a host of oth­ers.We will con­tinue to do every­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect the rights of both Florida women con­tem­plat­ing an abor­tion and those they turn to seek­ing com­pas­sion and ad­vice.”

Gov. Rick Scott's of­fice said Satur­day the rul­ing is be­ing reviewed.


Nancy Abudu, le­gal direc­tor for the American Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Florida.

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