A new Florida law that would require a woman to wait 24 hours between seeing a doctor and obtaining an abortion places an "undue burden" on women and is also unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights against the state of Florida.
The new requirement, signed into law Wednesday by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, is slated to go into effect July 1. Exceptions to the 24-hour waiting period can be granted to victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking, but only if the victims produce documentation such as police reports or medical records, the Florida Times-Union reported.
The required waiting period is "a sweeping restriction on Florida women's ability to access abortion services, unprecedented in this state," in the words of the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Miami Herald reported. The organizations filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gainesville Woman Care, which does offer abortions, and Medical Students for Choice.
"The sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do," Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement. "Furthermore, it's flat-out offensive. A woman who is seeking an abortion has already carefully considered her decision."
The ACLU noted that the law imposed the waiting period, ostensibly in which women would weigh their decision, without actually providing women with additional pertinent information. More alarmingly, it noted, the law posed a danger to women's health by leaving little leeway for medical emergencies.
Although the bill sailed through the Republican-controlled House and Senate in Florida, it nevertheless generated disgust among some state legislators. "The idea that a woman who has been raped or violated has to now go get a police report in order to prove that, I find absurd and frankly insulting," Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat, said.
Others, like Sen. Darren Soto, a Democrat, called it unconstitutional because it violated a person's right to privacy. The law would also disproportionately affect women in rural parts of the state whom the law might force to make two separate trips to faraway abortion clinics, other critics have argued.
The bill's Senate sponsor, Anitere Flores, a Republican, suggested the law was intended to make women think long and hard before getting an abortion. "The importance of this bill is to give women an opportunity to reflect on a major decision that they are about to undertake," Flores said.
The House sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, said it would prevent women from being persuaded to have an abortion if they didn't want to, the Miami Herald reported.