Florida Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Arguments Against 15-Week Abortion Ban

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The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments against the state’s 15-week abortion ban, a decision that comes as Florida’s lawmakers are likely to discuss further restrictions on abortions in the 2023 legislative session.

HB5 has been challenged by Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other abortion providers, arguing that the state’s Constitution protects the right to abortion.

On Monday, the court declined to immediately block HB5 while the lawsuit proceeds, thereby leaving the 15-week abortion ban in place. However, it accepted the plaintiffs’ request to hear their arguments in the case against HB5. The court will now schedule oral arguments through a separate order.

“While we are pleased that the court didn’t shut its doors completely, we are dismayed that it has allowed this dangerous ban to remain in effect and to harm real people each and every day until this case is finally decided,” Whitney White, staff attorney for ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a Jan. 23 statement.

HB5 was passed in March 2022 and signed into law in April the same year.

“We are here to defend those who cannot defend themselves,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the time. “We are here today to protect life.”

HB5 reduced the legal time limit for abortion to 14 weeks from the earlier 24 weeks, providing no exemption for incest or rape. The law came into effect on July 1, 2022.

Lawsuit, Further Abortion Restrictions

The lawsuit against the 15-week ban was filed in June last year. On July 5, a circuit court judge issued a temporary injunction, stating that the implementation of HB5 would be blocked, citing a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that the state’s privacy laws protect abortion. Florida appealed the ruling.

In August, the 1st District Court of Appeal blocked the circuit court ruling, keeping the 15-week abortion ban in effect. Plaintiffs in the case asked the Florida Supreme Court to block the law, which was denied on Jan. 23 in a 4–1 decision.

By Naveen Athrappully

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