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Florida judge signs off on 24-hour abortion waiting period

Then-Governor Rick Scott first signed the controversial bill into law in 2015.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After a nearly seven-year legal battle, a Florida judge has approved a 24-hour waiting period for abortions in the state.

The controversial legislation that requires women to wait 24 hours after initial doctors' visits before getting an abortion was signed into law in 2015 by then-Governor Rick Scott. However, its constitutionality was immediately put in question, leading to a years-long back-and-forth in court.

On Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey issued a ruling upholding the law and rejecting requests from plaintiffs to put the decision on hold for time to pursue an appeal.

Dempsey said that other medical procedures have similar waiting periods and other important decisions like getting married, getting divorced and buying a gun have longer waiting periods.

“Twenty-four hours is the minimum time needed to sleep on such an important decision,” the judge wrote.

She also added that exceptions for the life of a mother and documented cases of rape and incest support the constitutionality of the law.

“This court’s ruling merely puts the people of Florida in the same position as the people of a majority of States,” Dempsey wrote in the ruling.

Critics of the law, including Florida House Rep. Anna Eskamani argue that the law creates unnecessary barriers for women and makes abortion more restrictive.

“This is going to create ridiculous unnecessary barriers like childcare, transportation cost, maybe even lodging if the abortion provider’s not close to you and it’s all designed to make abortion more restrictive in the state of Florida,” Eskamani said in a video posted to social media.

OBGYN Kristen Witkowski says a "24-hour abortion waiting period" is a highly unnecessary obstacle for women and doctors.

"If these lawmakers think that pregnant women aren't thinking every minute of every day about how pregnancy is going to affect their health and families... they know nothing," Witkowski said.

Witkowski says the law adds unnecessary time and stress to an already difficult process. Furthermore, she believes the decision should be between the pregnant person and their doctor.

"It totally undermines the physician-patient relationship. Every day we counsel patients on options, risks and benefits," Witkowski explained.

In March, Florida lawmakers passed a controversial bill that severely restricts abortion after 15 weeks, with few exceptions, sending the measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis for a final signature.

The legislation bans abortion if a doctor finds the gestational age of a fetus is more than 15 weeks. Exceptions are allowed if the woman's life is considered to be in danger or if the fetus is considered to have a "fatal fetal abnormality." 

There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Through DeSantis has yet to officially put pen to paper, he previously called the bill "reasonable" and "supportive of protecting life" and signaled that he would be signing it into law.

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