TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge on Thursday said he would temporarily block a 15-week abortion ban from taking effect, following a court challenge by reproductive health providers who say the state constitution guarantees a right to the procedure.
Judge John C. Cooper made the oral ruling from the bench, and said he would soon sign the temporary injunction.
The decision came days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, ending federal protections for abortions and reigniting fierce battles in state courts and legislatures over access to the procedure.
Florida's 15-week abortion ban was passed by the GOP-controlled statehouse and signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring. It was set to take effect Friday.
The state will almost certainly fight the ruling.
The law would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman's life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.
Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians and other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.
The legal challenge in Florida hinges on a 1980 amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing a broad right to privacy, which has been interpreted by the state Supreme Court to include abortion. Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy in 2012 by rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened its protections, plaintiffs 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.
The state argued that abortion providers don't have standing to make a claim of a personal right to privacy since they were acting as third parties on behalf of their patients. Attorneys for the state also maintained that the state's constitutional right to privacy doesn't include the right to abortion, arguing that the state has an interest in safeguarding health and protecting potential life.
Data shows the majority of abortions in Florida occur before the 15-week cutoff. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said about 2% of the nearly 72,000 abortions reported in Florida in 2019 were performed after 15 weeks.