A Florida judge on Thursday said he’ll block the new law imposing a 15-week abortion ban. It’s a victory, however temporary, for privacy rights and the state Constitution.
It took a Leon County circuit judge, John Cooper, to acknowledge that, since 1989, the Florida courts have said the privacy clause in the Constitution includes abortion protections. Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy in 2012, rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened it. Poll after poll has shown that Floridians want abortion decisions to be made by individuals, not the government.
You wouldn’t know any of that based on the way the Republican Legislature or Gov. Ron DeSantis has acted, of course. They seem to have zero regard for what the majority of people want, muscling through the Legislature a 15-week ban that — with unbelievable cruelty — includes no exceptions for rape or incest.
They pushed their sanctimonious, minority viewpoint on us all, despite indications that voters aren’t with them: A University of North Florida poll in February that found 57% of the state’s registered voters were against the ban.
And they trampled on our established rights in this state despite the fact that Florida had the fourth-highest abortion rate in the nation in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 18 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years. The national average is about 11.
Floridians, it’s clear, want choice.
After Cooper heard arguments this week — three days after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade — he said he would issue an injunction in the suit brought by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. It can’t come soon enough. Once he issues the injunction, Florida’s new law will be on pause.
(Florida currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks. It was unclear when the injunction would go into effect or whether it would last long. The 15-week law was set to begin at midnight Friday.)
Florida’s abortion fight is certainly far from over. The state plans to appeal, of course, and it will be using your tax money to pay for attorneys to argue for taking your rights away.
The issue is likely to wind up before the Florida Supreme Court. In the past, the court has upheld privacy protections, but it’s now a more conservative body, with three justices appointed by DeSantis and all seven appointed by Republican governors.
Thursday’s ruling offered a sliver of hope. Against the assembled might of the Florida Legislature and a governor who tries to crush anyone who crosses him, one judge found the 15-week ban unconstitutional.
He honored the will of the voters, not the minority rule coming out of the Legislature. May we see more of that.