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After Supreme Court ruling, Florida's focus shifts to new 15-week abortion ban

A woman demonstrates outside the Duval County Courthouse on Friday, June 24, 2022.
Will Brown
A woman demonstrates outside the Duval County Courthouse on Friday, June 24, 2022.

The Supreme Court's Friday ruling overturning Roe v. Wade means there is no longer a federal guarantee that abortion is legal. The decision sends the issue to the states.

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said on The Florida Roundup that clinics in the state are continuing to see patients and preparing to fight further restrictions in Florida.

Florida does not have a so-called "trigger law" that automatically banned abortions once Roe v. Wade was overturned as some other states do. The Legislature this year passed a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. That law is set to take effect July 1. It is being challenged in court.

"Today you can access abortion [in Florida], but we may not be able to tomorrow. So we're just serving as many patients as possible," Goodhue said. "Unfortunately, the DeSantis administration seems hell-bent on passing abortion restrictions and restricting our bodily autonomy, which is central to our freedoms as Floridians and as Americans. And so we will be working to make sure that the Florida Legislature doesn't pass any further abortion restrictions because we have to be there for our patients."

Politically, Florida is dominated by Republicans. The state has a single Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, elected statewide, and Republicans control the Legislature and governor's office.

Yet the state has one of the country's highest rates of abortion. It also has a privacy protection explicitly in the state Constitution.

"Planned Parenthood health centers, in particular in Tallahassee and Jacksonville, they see patients from as far away as Texas, where they've virtually banned abortion already," Goodhue said. "But with this ruling, we expect to see many more people from other states. The sad reality is that people will need abortion no matter what. And it's people of color, LGBTQ-plus young people, people of low income that will not be able to travel to another state to get that care. They may not have the time off work or school or money to travel. And so people will always need abortions. They just may not be able to access them in the safest manner possible."

Kara Sugihara, a nurse practitioner who specializes in abortion care, said people are in a "medically precarious state" when they're pregnant.

"You know, if you have ever been pregnant, you've ever had a baby, you know how quickly things can go south with hemorrhage. You can develop high blood pressure, you can have a stroke," she said. "And unfortunately, in this country, the risks, especially for black women, are much higher than other populations. So lives are at risk, of course."

Attorney William Hurd served as Virginia's solicitor general and defended abortion statutes before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the Florida Supreme Court will have the "final word" on the 15-week ban that is set to take effect July 1.

Arguments for an injunction to block the law from taking effect are scheduled for Monday, June 27.

"I do believe that the plaintiffs in that challenge have a fairly steep hill to climb on both their religious claims and their privacy claim," Hurd said. "As I read the jurisprudence surrounding the Florida privacy constitutional provision, if the state asserts a compelling interest and shows that the statute is narrowly tailored to advance that interest, then the statute would be upheld."

He said he expects Attorney General Ashley Moody's office to assert that "there is a compelling interest in protecting human life at the 15-week point and that the statute which prohibits abortions past that point, is narrowly tailored to achieve that objective."

Copyright 2022 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.