TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A judge in Leon County ruled Thursday that the ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy is unconstitutional in Florida, but Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration vowed to continue defending it in court.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper had yet to sign the injunction to temporarily block the ban when he announced his ruling. After he listened to attorneys’ closing statements, he sided with a group of reproductive health care providers that argued the ban violates privacy rights that are protected by the state’s constitution.
“It’s unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida constitution,” Cooper said in court later adding, “Florida’s privacy provision is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision of whether or not to continue her pregnancy.”
House Bill 5, which DeSantis signed into law in April, was set to reduce the existing 24-week ban — without exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking — and go into effect on Friday. It’s unclear how long Cooper’s injunction will block the ban.
“These are unborn babies that have a heartbeat, they could feel pain, they could suck their thumb, and to say that the state’s constitution mandates things like dismemberment abortions, I just don’t think that’s the proper interpretation,” DeSantis said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fetal pain is not structurally possible until at least 24–25 weeks of gestation. Also, anti-abortion activists use the non-medical term “dismemberment abortions” to refer to the standard surgical technique used after about 14 weeks.
Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, also released a statement announcing the state will appeal Cooper’s ruling. According to The American Civil Liberties Union, once the state files the appeal, the injunction is put back on hold, and Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is back in effect.
“The Florida Supreme Court previously misinterpreted Florida’s right to privacy as including a right to an abortion,” Pushaw wrote. “We reject this interpretation because the Florida Constitution does not include – and has never included – a right to kill an innocent unborn child.”
The ACLU and the law firm Jenner & Block filed the lawsuit on June 1 on behalf of Planned Parenthood chapters in Florida, Gainesville Woman Care, Indian Rocks Woman’s Center, St. Petersburg Woman’s Health Center, Tampa Woman’s Health Center, and A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville.
Pushaw said that although there was disappointment about the ruling, DeSantis believes the law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges. DeSantis recently praised the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade, which ended federal protections for abortions.
“We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy,” Pushaw said. “The struggle for life is not over.”
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Related story: Providers urge judge to stop state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy from going into effect Friday
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