So, What’s the Deal With Florida?
Just last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new law that would require women seeking abortion care to wait 24 hours and make two clinic visits before they could access care. This law was set to go into effect today, July 1, but there’s some confusion over whether or not it has gone into effect. Let’s break down what happened yesterday and what can still happen.
Unfortunately, waiting periods are not a new tactic. Even though women carefully consider their options before they make an appointment to obtain abortion care, some politicians like Governor Scott think they know better and have passed medically unnecessary, government-enforced “time outs” for women seeking abortion care.
After Governor Scott signed this law in Florida, NAF members and coalition partners at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU challenged this harmful law on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, a NAF member, and Medical Students for Choice. Yesterday, a Florida state court judge blocked the unconstitutional law with a temporary injunction. This meant the law would NOT go into effect today and women would be able to access the abortion care they need without the government-mandated “time out.”
Unfortunately, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the state judge’s decision which triggered an automatic blocking—or stay– of the decision. This means the 24-hour waiting period with two-clinic visits IS in effect starting today.
The ACLU has requested the Florida state judge to lift the stay which would allow his initial ruling—temporarily blocking the harmful law—to take effect and maintain the pre-July 1st status quo until the initial legal challenge of the law can be heard and decided.
So, what does this mean for pregnant women seeking abortion care in Florida? While it may seem like merely an inconvenience, waiting periods—especially those that require two clinic visits—can have quite an impact on women seeking abortion care. A woman may have to delay her care, particularly if she has to take time off from work, arrange for child care, travel a long way, and perhaps stay overnight in a different city. These can be insurmountable obstacles for some women seeking abortion care. Waiting periods disproportionately harm those women with fewer financial resources or those who live in rural areas where there are no abortion providers. We’re already hearing from many women in Florida on our Hotline who are panicking because they’ve struggled to figure out a way to get to their first appointment and have no idea how they’re going to make it to a second. And that’s really the intent of these laws. It’s no secret, that the real goal of waiting periods is to make it harder—if not impossible—for women to obtain abortion care.
For women in Florida, this is only the beginning and by the time you read this, this harmful law could be blocked again. The back-and-forth, “is it in effect?” or “is it not in effect?” feeling of chaos and confusion can be felt by anyone trying to follow this law, including clinic staff and women trying to obtain the abortion care they need. Hopefully, this winding road has a happy ending where women, in consultation with their medical care providers and those they trust, are able to decide when they are ready for any medical procedure—including abortion care—not politicians.
tl:dr The harmful, unconstitutional 24-hour waiting period with a two-clinic visit requirement has gone into effect today, but there’s still hope.