TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court accepted a request by abortion providers today to hear arguments in their case against House Bill 5 (HB 5), a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The move comes after several court rulings closed off meaningful legal avenues to block the law. While providers’ request for the court to hear arguments in the case was granted, the justices declined to immediately block HB 5 while the lawsuit proceeds, leaving the ban in place for now. The court will schedule oral arguments in a separate order.
HB 5 is a clear violation of Floridians’ dignity and bodily autonomy, endangering their families, their health, and their lives. Since the law went into effect on July 1, it has forced countless people in need of essential abortion services to either travel long distances out of state to attempt to access care or to carry pregnancies against their will, subjecting them to the life-altering — and sometimes life-threatening — consequences of pregnancy. Making reproductive health care inaccessible in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis disproportionately harms Black women, who are nearly three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth or shortly after.
Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:
Whitney White, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“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. We hope that the court acts quickly and follows 40 years of precedent and the will of the people to stop this unconstitutional 15-week abortion ban, which has caused chaos and devastation in the state since going into effect in July. For almost seven months, women and people in need of essential abortion services have been forced to flee the state in search of the health care they need or face the horror of government-mandated forced pregnancy. While today’s order is a step in the right direction, Floridians urgently need relief from Gov. DeSantis’ cruel ban. We look forward to making our case before the state supreme court and will do everything in our power to urgently put an end to HB 5, which is a blatant violation of the state constitutional rights of people who can become pregnant.”
Statement from Daniel Tilley, legal director, ACLU of Florida:
“We all deserve the power to control our bodies and to decide if and when to have a child — regardless of where we live, how much money we make, or who we are. HB 5 continues to have a dangerous impact on Floridians’ right to access abortion care. We will not stop until we have reproductive freedom for all.”
Statement from Alexandra Mandado, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, and Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida:
“While we are relieved that the Florida Supreme Court will hear our challenge to the state’s cruel 15-week abortion ban, we are disappointed that it has allowed the ban to remain in effect. Because of this decision, Floridians and their families continue to be denied their right to determine what is best for their own bodies and lives. We are hopeful that relief will come swiftly and that Florida’s abortion providers — including the state’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates — will be able to resume offering the compassionate care our patients need. Until then, we will do everything in our power to ensure that patients have the resources to access care.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“With today’s Florida Supreme Court decision to hear our challenge to the state’s abortion ban, we are one step closer to ending a months-long nightmare for Floridians. We are hopeful that the court will act quickly and restore Floridians’ right to abortion and bodily autonomy. Each day that the ban remains in effect, people across the state are deprived of the ability to determine what is best for their own lives and bodies. The deprivation of rights is compounded for Black and Latino communities; people with low incomes; and youth, who already experience higher social and economic barriers to accessing abortion. We will not stop fighting until the state supreme court permanently blocks the 15-week abortion ban.”
Statement from Autumn Katz, interim director of litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“We welcome the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to hear our challenge to the state’s devastating 15-week ban. While it is disappointing that the court rejected our request to block the law while our appeal is heard, we hope that the court will act swiftly to restore Floridian's ability to make their own decisions about their health and their lives. This law has inflicted profound harms on Floridians for the past seven months. People shouldn’t be forced to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles just to reach the critical care they need. We will work tirelessly to strike down this ban and restore abortion access for good in the state.”
Statement from Kelly Flynn, president & CEO, A Woman’s Choice clinics:
“We hope that the Florida Supreme Court will ultimately block the state’s harmful ban. Floridians already have to jump through multiple hoops just to obtain essential health care including being forced to wait 24 hours before receiving services despite potentially dangerous consequences to their health. Our patients deserve the ability to make such deeply personal decisions about their health with their doctors. We will keep fighting this unjust ban to protect our patients’ rights to control their own lives and futures.”
Statement from April Otterberg, partner, Jenner & Block:
“We look forward to making our case before the Florida Supreme Court and fighting for the constitutional rights of Floridians everywhere. Our hope is that once the court hears of the devastating impacts of House Bill 5, we will win much-needed relief for the many individuals in need of essential reproductive healthcare in Florida.”
Despite overwhelming opposition to banning abortion among Florida healthcare professionals, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 5 into law in spring of last year. Two-thirds of Floridians support the right to abortion, and voters have consistently cast their ballots to ensure that the state constitution provides independent protection for the right to abortion. 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.
In July, a state trial court, which heard evidence from multiple witnesses, issued an injunction blocking the law after concluding that the ban likely violates the state constitution and will cause irreparable harm to Floridians. However, that order was automatically stayed under Florida law when the state appealed the case to the First District Court of Appeals, despite the ban’s blatant violation of a right that Floridians have relied on for decades and that the Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed. The First District Court of Appeals’ most recent decisions held that the plaintiffs — a group of Florida abortion providers — could not rely on the harm the ban is causing their patients as a reason to block the law. Those rulings, which directly contradict how the Florida Supreme Court has evaluated challenges to abortion laws in the past, would have essentially foreclosed the providers’ legal challenge to the law. The state high court will now consider the plaintiffs’ request to reverse the First District Court of Appeals’ order and reinstate the trial court’s injunction while the litigation continues in the lower courts.
This law is yet another barrier to essential care in a state where abortion access has been under attack for years. Floridians already face burdensome restrictions to getting an abortion — including a ban on insurance plans on the state exchange covering abortion; a parental consent requirement that makes it harder for young people to get abortions; and a law that requires people to make an additional, unnecessary trip to an abortion provider before receiving care. There are also many other barriers to access for people who need abortion care, including delays in finding out they’re pregnant, coordinating transportation, difficulty affording essential health care, and a lack of nearby providers.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm Jenner & Block filed this lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida; Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida; Gainesville Woman Care; Indian Rocks Woman’s Center; St. Petersburg Woman’s Health Center; Tampa Woman’s Health Center; A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville; and an individual physician plaintiff.
This release can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/florida-supreme-court-hear-challenge-15-week-abortion-ban-which-remains-effect
A copy of today’s order from the Florida Supreme Court can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/fl-supreme-court-order-accepting-jurisdiction
An overview of the case and the complaint can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/planned-parenthood-southwest-and-central-florida-et-al-v-state-florida-et-al