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Judge rules Florida's 15-week abortion ban unconstitutional

Leon Circuit Judge John C. Cooper temporarily blocked the law from taking effect Friday. The state is likely to appeal.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida judge ruled that the state's new 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional, temporarily blocking the law from taking effect Friday.

"HB-5 is unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution," said Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper during a Thursday afternoon hearing.

The state is likely to appeal the ruling.

Reproductive health providers asked a Florida judge to block the law from taking effect July 1, arguing the state constitution guarantees access to the procedure. Planned Parenthood and other health centers were seeking a temporary emergency injunction to stop the law passed by Florida's Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Cooper began hearing arguments in the case Monday, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ended federal protections for abortion by overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

RELATED: What happens in Florida with Roe v. Wade overturned

Florida’s new law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save a mother’s life or the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

The law is considered by many as the strictest abortion ban in state history. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

"While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges," the governor's office said in a statement via email. "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."

The governor's office went on to say it will appeal the 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," the governor's office wrote in the statement.

DeSantis doubled down on this stance during a press conference Thursday afternoon in Sanford. 

“We did have a ruling in Tallahassee effectively enjoining the bill that we provided – that I signed to provide protections for unborn babies at 15 weeks. We knew that was likely gonna be what was decided in that case. We knew that we were gonna have to move forward and continue the legal battle," he said.

"These are unborn babies that have heartbeat, they can feel pain, they can suck their thumb and to say that the state constitution mandates things like dismemberment abortions – I just don’t think that’s the proper interpretation, so we’ll appeal.”

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood and other health providers said a 1980 amendment to the state constitution guarantees a broad right to privacy, which includes abortion. Florida voters reaffirmed the right to privacy in 2012 by rejecting a ballot initiative that would have weakened its protections, plaintiffs said.

Florida has the third-highest abortion rate in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's 2019 data, the most recent figures available.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, 79,817 abortions were performed in 2021 in Florida. Of those, 59,257 abortions happened within the 1st trimester and wouldn't be impacted by the 15-week law.

RELATED: Biden says he supports changing Senate filibuster rules to codify abortion protections

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