Florida judge strikes down 15-week abortion ban, DeSantis vows appeal

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will appeal after a state court ruled the 15-week abortion ban he signed in April violates Florida’s constitution.

In a Thursday decision, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper blocked the abortion ban from taking effect on Friday. He ruled that the law violates “the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution.”

The Florida law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except for medical emergencies where the life of the mother is endangered or the unborn baby has a fatal defect. Violators could face up to five years in prison, and medical professionals who conduct abortions risk losing their licenses and paying fines of $10,000 per violation.

Left-wing groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on June 1 seeking an injunction against the Florida law.

They argued that the Florida law is “blatantly unconstitutional” under the state constitution, which reads in part: “Right of privacy: Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life.”

“In 1980, Florida voters amended the state constitution to provide broad protections for individual privacy rights — including abortion. And in 2012, voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 6, which would have taken those protections away,” the ACLU of Florida said in a statement.

“While the U.S. Supreme Court’s shameful ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization took away the federal constitutional right to abortion, the Florida Constitution provides broad, independent protections for abortion. These protections, which have been repeatedly affirmed by Florida voters and decades of legal precedents, continue to protect Floridians’ fundamental right to abortion,” the group argued.

ACLU lawyers and representatives from Florida abortion clinics celebrated the court’s decision.

“We’re glad the court recognized Florida’s abortion ban is a cruel attack on people’s health, futures, and state constitutional rights,” ACLU attorney Whitney White said. “Florida’s 15-week ban would force people to carry pregnancies against their will, risking their health and depriving them of the right to make deeply personal decisions about the course of their own lives. This ban defies the will of the people and rights that Floridians have relied on for decades.”

DeSantis’ office rejected the court’s argument in a statement announcing it would appeal the decision.

“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges. The Florida Supreme Court previously misinterpreted Florida’s right to privacy as including a right to an abortion. We reject this interpretation because the Florida Constitution does not include-and has never included-a right to kill an innocent unborn child. We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy. The struggle for life is not over.”

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