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Appeals court won't fast track Florida abortion lawsuit

florida_supreme_court.jpg
Miami Herald
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Miami Herald
The 1st District Court of Appeal decided Thursday that it will consider the case rather than forwarding it immediately to the state’s highest court. Pictured: the Florida Supreme Court.

The legal battle over Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban won’t go on a fast track to the state Supreme Court, which has previously ruled that the constitution’s privacy provisions guarantee a right to abortion.

The 1st District Court of Appeal decided Thursday that it will consider the case rather than forwarding it immediately to the state’s highest court. The court also rejected a bid from abortion providers to temporarily block the law, meaning that for now the 15-week ban remains in effect in Florida.

The ban on abortions after 15 weeks — down from 24 weeks under longstanding past law — took effect July 1.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed confidence the state will prevail on appeal, particularly before a Supreme Court with a conservative majority. If so, that would mean the justices would have to reverse years of precedent ensuring a woman’s abortion rights in Florida, much as the U.S. Supreme Court did in overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The Florida law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians and other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.

The law was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by DeSantis this spring.

Reproductive health providers sued over the law, arguing that it violates an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing a broad right to privacy. The law was temporarily blocked by a lower court judge who ruled that it violated the state constitution, but the state’s appeal put a hold on that original ruling, reinstating the 15-week restriction.

Data shows the majority of abortions in Florida occur before 15 weeks. A U.S. 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.