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Clinics urge the Florida Supreme Court to put the state's new abortion restrictions on hold

Supporters of Florida Voice For The Unborn demonstrate on the fourth floor of the Florida Capitol while lawmakers work on property insurance bills May 24, 2022.
Phil Sears
/
AP
Supporters of Florida Voice For The Unborn demonstrate on the fourth floor of the Florida Capitol while lawmakers work on property insurance bills May 24, 2022.

The attorneys for the clinics and a doctor filed documents contending that a ruling last month by the 1st District Court of Appeal allowing 15-week ban to be in effect has caused “irreparable harm.”

Attorneys for abortion clinics and a doctor asked the Florida Supreme Court on Friday to put on hold a new law preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The attorneys filed documents contending that a ruling last month by the 1st District Court of Appeal allowing the law (HB 5) to be in effect has caused “irreparable harm.”

“Every day that HB 5 remains enforceable, Florida patients in desperate need of post-15-week abortion services are being turned away and forced to attempt to seek abortions hundreds of miles or more out of state, to attempt abortions outside the medical system, or to continue pregnancies against their will,” a 30-page emergency motion said.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper last month issued a temporary injunction against the 15-week abortion limit, saying it violated a privacy right in the Florida Constitution. The state quickly appealed, which, under legal rules, placed an automatic stay on the temporary injunction.

A panel of the appeals court rejected a request by the abortion clinics and the doctor to vacate the stay — effectively allowing the 15-week limit to remain in effect while legal battles continue. The documents filed Friday, in part, urged the Supreme Court to vacate the stay.

The appeals-court panel, in a 2-1 ruling, said the clinics and the doctor had not shown irreparable harm from the nearly total ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

While the ruling stemmed from a request to vacate the stay, the majority of the appeals court also signaled that it did not agree with the underlying temporary injunction issued by Cooper.

Judge Brad Thomas, in an opinion joined by Judge Stephanie Ray, wrote that “a temporary injunction cannot be issued absent a showing of irreparable harm. As to appellees (the abortion clinics and doctor) themselves, any loss of income from the operation of the law cannot provide a basis for a finding of irreparable harm as a matter of law. And the parties do not dispute that the operation of the law will not affect the majority of provided abortions.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the 15-week limit this year amid a national debate about abortion rights. The clinics and the doctor filed the lawsuit June 1, arguing that the 15-week limit violated a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution that has long played a key role in bolstering abortion rights in the state.

The appeals-court ruling, in part, said the clinics and the doctor did not have legal standing to obtain the temporary injunction. Thomas wrote that “they cannot obtain temporary injunctive relief as they cannot assert the privacy rights of pregnant women necessary to substantiate a showing of irreparable harm, an indispensable requirement of a temporary injunction.”

In the documents filed Friday at the Supreme Court, attorneys for the clinics and the doctor argued that the standing decision conflicted with court precedents. They urged justices to take up the issue.

“This conflicts with multiple cases in which this (Supreme) Court and district courts of appeal permitted abortion providers identically situated to plaintiffs to raise their patients’ privacy rights under the state Constitution, and, where applicable, affirmed injunctive relief on such third-party claims,” the attorneys wrote in one of the documents.