Florida’s 15-week abortion ban violates state constitution, judge says

Governor promises to appeal

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said the new 15-week abortion ban, signed in April by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates Florida’s constitution.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said the new 15-week abortion ban, signed in April by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates Florida’s constitution.

The ban, set to go into effect Friday, will be blocked once the injunction is formally filed.

The court ruled from the bench after hearing more about a lawsuit to stop the ban, filed June 1 by such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, seeking a temporary emergency injunction.

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Those challenging the law argue it violates the state constitution, amended by Florida voters in 1980 to guarantee “broad protections for individual privacy rights — including abortion,” the groups said.

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.

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.

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.

The law, which landed on DeSantis’ desk as HB 5, defines gestation “as calculated from the first day of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period,” stipulating that “a physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks,” and does not include exceptions for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking.

Physicians who perform abortions in Florida under allowed circumstances — including after 15 weeks of gestation as defined in the law if two physicians submit in writing that a pregnant woman could die or be irreversibly impaired physically, but not mentally, without an abortion — must report them to the Agency for Health Care Administration on a monthly basis, the law states.

Those who violate the law would face a five-year prison sentence, loss of medical licensure and a $10,000 fine per violation.

The governor’s office issued this statement Thursday:

“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges. The Florida Supreme Court previously misinterpreted Florida’s right to privacy as including a right to an abortion. We reject this interpretation because the Florida Constitution does not include–and has never included–a right to kill an innocent unborn child. We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy. The struggle for life is not over.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.