A Florida court ruling brought good news Thursday for a state waiting period law that helps protect women from being rushed into aborting their unborn babies.
The law, which passed in 2015, requires that women wait 24 hours before going through with an abortion, but it is not in effect. The American Civil Liberties Union and a Gainesville abortion facility challenged the law, and the Florida Supreme Court temporarily blocked the state from enforcing it.
On Thursday, however, the First District Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should have given the case a full trial, and sent it back for further review, the AP reports.
Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Denise Harle praised the appeals court for its decision.
“Abortion is a life-altering decision, and no woman should be rushed or pressured into it,” Harle said. “Abortion advocates, with the help of the ACLU, sought to strike down this commonsense protection for women, even though the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld a similar law.”
Waiting periods are an important part of the informed consent process before a woman goes through with aborting her unborn baby. They give pregnant mothers time to consider information about the risks of abortion, their unborn baby’s development and the support available if they choose life. They also help protect women from making hasty, uninformed decisions that they later may regret.
The appeals court said the state produced evidence supporting the constitutionality of the law, and it deserves further review by the lower court.
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Here’s more from the AP:
That evidence included medical experts who said no other non-emergency, outpatient invasive procedure is done on demand without a prior consultation. The appeals court said ACLU and Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center decided to stand pat with the argument it used before the Supreme Court instead of countering the state’s new evidence.
“We are disappointed that the court failed to recognize what we all know — a 24-hour delay was designed to and plainly does unnecessarily restrict access to safe and legal reproductive health care. We look forward to proving these facts at trial,” Benjamin Stevenson, a lawyer for ACLU of Florida, said in an emailed statement.
Harle said the appeals court recognized the evidence in support of a waiting period, including abortion risks and standard medical practices.
“The appeals court noted evidence from medical experts that the standard of care for significant, non-emergency medical procedures is that they are not and should not be done on a drop-in basis,” she said. “The court also described evidence of the ‘mental health effects and negative outcomes’—including suicide—associated with women who undergo abortions without adequate time to process the serious consequences and come to a place of certainty.”
She said the court’s decision to reverse the lower court ruling was “on solid ground.”
Many states have abortion waiting periods as part of their informed consent requirements. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 34 states require informed consent counseling, and 27 have waiting periods ranging from 24 to 72 hours.
When they adopted the legislation, members of the Florida legislature pointed out how similar laws in other states have saved babies and their mothers from abortions.
“This is not a procedure — it is a life,” said State Rep. Jimmie Smith. Referring to the bill’s author, freshman Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, Smith added, “Representative Sullivan, the greatest consequence of your bill is a beautiful baby.”
“I am here today as an advocate for those women who are being pressured,” Rep. Sullivan said, according to Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida.
Elected at age 23, Sullivan said she has witnessed pressure placed upon women by their loved ones — especially a spouse or a boyfriend — to make a hasty decision about having abortions.
“I care about the women who have sat in my office,” she said. “I care about the women who have cried in committee.”
During the debate in the state Senate, Sen. Anitere Flores, one of the bill sponsors, said, “One day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view an image of the unborn child’s ultrasound image, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith are minimal considering the effects that will remain for a lifetime beyond that irreversible decision.”
A 2014 Rasmussen poll found that Americans favor waiting periods for abortions.