JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Reproductive health providers are asking a Florida court to block a new state law from taking effect this week that would restrict abortions after 15 weeks, arguing the state constitution guarantees a broad right to privacy on matters including abortion.
Planned Parenthood is among those seeking a temporary emergency injunction to stop the law approved this year by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature and governor. A Florida synagogue also sued, saying the government intrusion violates the privacy rights and religious freedoms of Jewish women.
A hearing was underway in the case Monday in Tallahassee, days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion has no basis in the U.S. Constitution.
Planned Parenthood, a pro-abortion rights group, said it has been getting lots of phone calls and people are already traveling to Florida from states that no longer offer abortions.
“People from Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and they need us as well and we don’t want to turn anyone away,” said Christina Noce, Communications Director for Planned Parenthood.
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week abortion procedures were banned or restricted in some states when trigger laws took effect. Noce said with more patients coming to Florida, more doctors will be needed too.
“We have physicians now in the process of hiring that are from other states who are willing to get on a plane and travel a few times a month to Florida to help us provide care,” Noce said.
The local Planned Parenthood has been busy with women considering abortion options and the Women’s Help Center in Jacksonville has been busy with women considering adoption.
Noce says Planned Parenthood offices are making other adjustments for more patients trying to beat the Friday deadline or avoid bans from other states, like getting patients into centers sooner, expanding hours and adding more appointments.
In Leon County, the ACLU has filed an injunction against the 15-week deadline for an abortion based on the Florida Constitution, stating a person has a “right to privacy” and “to be left alone.”
Florida voters in 1980 amended the state constitution to guarantee a broad right of privacy, which includes the right to abortion, the abortion providers said in court papers.
In 2012, Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy by rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened its protections and would have prohibited state courts from interpreting the Florida Constitution to provide stronger protection for abortion than federal law, they said.
“Despite Florida’s history of protecting the right to abortion, the Florida legislature recently engaged in a brazen attempt to override the will of the Florida people,” the abortion providers said.
If the injunction doesn’t stand, the 15-week deadline goes into effect this Friday. Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians or other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.
For now, Noce believes women will not stop coming to Florida for abortions and other family planning options.