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Florida abortion providers file brief with high court over abortion ban

The Florida Supreme Court.
Nick Evans
The Florida Supreme Court.

Florida abortion providers and advocates are not backing down when it comes to challenging Florida’s 15-week ban on most abortions, known as HB 5.

A petitioner's brief was filed before the Florida Supreme Court Friday asking it to hear their challenge to Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Plaintiffs filed suit in a district court in June claiming a violation of the state constitution, challenging the law, but that injunction was blocked. According to a press release, "the appeal to the Florida Supreme Court comes after lower courts repeatedly closed off meaningful legal avenues to block HB 5."

During a press call Friday to discuss the briefing, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Whitney White, says that abortion is protected as a privacy right under Florida’s constitution, and that the ban contradicts how the Florida Supreme Court has evaluated past abortion law challenges.

“For decades, the Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly held that this express privacy right protects the right to make the deeply personal decision whether to terminate a pregnancy free of government interference," said White. "Nothing in the law has changed that would warrant a departure from this longstanding history and from the existing precedents protecting abortion.”

Accompanying the brief filed against the State of Florida, groups including Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and the ACLU of Florida, are asking the state supreme court for an emergency block of the 15-week abortion ban, which went into effect July 1.

Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, Dr. Robyn Schickler, says the ban has medical professionals afraid to provide appropriate care, worrying about legal repercussions, even in life-threatening circumstances.

“If it seems that she is actively having a miscarriage, maybe her cervix is dilating very early," said Schickler. "If there's cardiac activity, and it's over 15 weeks, doctors are going to be afraid to help the miscarriage happen. Which is by performing an abortion or too afraid to even offer that option to patients, which is the appropriate medical thing to do.”

According to the petitioner’s brief, health care providers who violate HB 5 are subject to felony prosecution and up to five years’ imprisonment, administrative fines, and license revocation.

State defendants have 30 days to respond and accept jurisdiction over the case, but the groups have requested expedited action to approve a ban on HB 5.

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