Florida abortion restriction law challenged with lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Reproductive health providers sued Florida on Wednesday over a new law banning abortions after 15 weeks, one of numerous legal challenges to such laws passed across the country by Republican leaders in anticipation of a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision that would limit the procedure.

The filing in state court in Tallahassee from Planned Parenthood and other health centers alleges that the law violates a provision in the state constitution guaranteeing a person’s right to privacy, “including the right to abortion.”

“HB 5 radically curtails the ability of Floridians to make decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy and have a child, in violation of their rights under the Florida Constitution,” the filing reads.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 15-week ban into law in April, as part of a growing conservative movement to restrict access to the procedure after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signaled it would uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The high court’s decision, expected this summer, could potentially weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade and make other legal challenges unlikely to succeed.

In a statement, DeSantis’ office said it “is confident that this law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges.”

Florida’s law, which is set to take effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

A federal 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. That same year, 2,256 out-of-state residents got abortions in Florida, with the majority — about 1,200 — coming from Georgia and more than 300 from Alabama, according to the CDC. The origin of the remaining patients was not clear.

Florida Republicans have said they want the state to be well placed to limit access to abortions if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s law. If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban or severely restrict abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights.

Republican lawmakers in other states have introduced new abortion restrictions, some similar to a Texas law that bans the procedure after roughly six weeks and leaves enforcement up to private citizens.

In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a bill to make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to a decade in prison. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in March signed legislation to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks if the U.S. Supreme Court leaves Mississippi’s law in place.

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