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State's appeal nullifies Judge's temporary block of Florida's 15-week abortion ban

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed the court's decision to temporarily halt the law, meaning it is automatically back in place until a judge says otherwise.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Less than an hour after a Florida judge officially, yet temporarily, blocked the state's 15-week abortion ban – days after it took effect – his ruling has been automatically nullified because the state filed an appeal.

Now, the law is back in effect until a judge says otherwise.

A statement from Gov. Ron DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw said, "We filed our appeal this morning...Because we appealed, an automatic stay of the injunction is in effect."

The appeal is no surprise.

The state was expected to challenge the temporary injunction from Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, who had verbally stated last week he would block the new Florida law. 

Last Thursday, Cooper called HB 5 "unconstitutional in that it violates the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution," signaling that he would soon issue the official ruling in writing. And he did so Tuesday morning.

His signature on the temporary injunction initially meant that abortion in Florida would be legal until 24 weeks of pregnancy, like it was before.

However, because of the state's appeal, an automatic stay of Cooper's injunction is now in place. As mentioned earlier, that means the 15-week abortion restriction law is back in place.

"The Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 27, 2022, and the parties presented oral argument on June 30, 2022. Having considered the legal arguments and the evidentiary records, and for the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiffs' Motion for an Emergency Temporary Injunction," the ruling reads.

The plaintiffs in this case are the reproductive health providers who asked Cooper to block the 15-week abortion law, arguing the state constitution guarantees access to the procedure. In court last week — just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ended federal protections for abortion by overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — Planned Parenthood and other health centers voiced their arguments to stop the state law passed by Florida's Republican-controlled legislature and signed by DeSantis. 

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 to be the strictest abortion ban in state history. 

"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 on Thursday. "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."

DeSantis doubled down on this stance during a press conference last 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.

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