Judge To Block Florida Abortion Ban Over Privacy Violations

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Judge John C. Cooper of the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Tallahassee indicated Thursday that he would block a 15-week abortion ban set to take effect in Florida on Friday. Cooper concluded the 15-week ban is in violation of state-level privacy protections for Floridians.

The key front for legal challenges to abortion restrictions is now the state level after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a case that previously established the nationally recognized right to an abortion. The temporary injunction Cooper indicated he’d be issuing to block the 15-week ban wouldn’t take effect until after he signs a written order, which could take up to a “few days,” The New York Times reported, citing the upcoming July 4 holiday. Cooper took action in the context of a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union. A case in which a Jewish congregation in southern Florida is challenging the new 15-week ban on the basis of arguments including religious freedom is separate.

Predictably, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s team has indicated they’ll appeal Cooper’s conclusion. The state Supreme Court — where the matter seems likely to eventually arrive — has previously blocked abortion restrictions in Florida on the basis of privacy protections specifically included (via a voter-approved amendment) in the state Constitution, but at this point, DeSantis himself is responsible for three of the court’s seven Justices’ original appointments — so the court could change course from its previous conclusions. “We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy,” the governor’s team stated.

Cooper concluded the ban “is unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution and does not meet the standards of the three Florida Supreme Court cases that have interpreted the effect of that constitutional provision on abortion in Florida.” Both sides presented purported expert testimony: those challenging the ban had Dr. Shelly Tien, a physician who provides abortion services, while the state had Dr. Ingrid Skop, who works at an anti-abortion group called the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Tien testified that those who’d be affected by Florida’s new ban are often in hardship. “Women and girls who need abortions after 15 weeks tend to have the most challenging and compelling life circumstances,” she said. Skop, meanwhile, alleged abortion to significantly increase in danger after 15 weeks. Cooper stated he found Tien’s testimony “more persuasive and better supported by scientific and medical literature, as well as by her extensive experience,” the Times reports.

Cooper’s order, meanwhile, could be overturned before the case even reaches the state Supreme Court. “Judge Cooper, citing other cases involving injunctions issued by the trial court, acknowledged that the appellate court is unlikely to keep his temporary pause in place for very long,” the Times reports. Elsewhere in the country, there have already been limited successes in litigation against new state-level abortion restrictions. Such restrictions have been temporarily blocked in Utah, Louisiana, and Kentucky, and there’s been litigation in additional states, such as Idaho and Ohio.