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Groups sue over Florida’s 24-hour wait period for abortions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Two groups sued the state of Florida on Thursday seeking to stop a 24-hour waiting period for abortions from taking effect, arguing that it imposes an unnecessary burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit one day after Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law. They argue that the law, which is to take effect July 1, violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the state constitution by interfering with their right to undergo the procedure.

“For many women, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to schedule an appointment on two consecutive days due to work and/or school schedules, child-care availability, and the need to secure transportation to and from a provider,” the suit says.

Plaintiffs listed in the case are Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center in Gainesville and Medical Students for Choice, a Philadelphia-based group that advocates for abortion training for medical students.

The suit argues that most women seeking abortions have low incomes, adding the loss of salary or travel costs for what will be at least a two-day process are particularly harmful to them.

The law has exceptions for victims of rape, incest, domestic abuse or human trafficking if women present their doctors with a police report, restraining order or similar documentation backing their claim. But the lawsuit said requiring documentation in those cases is meaningless because the majority of victims don’t report those crimes. The creation of a two-day process also increases the chances that a woman’s abuser will discover the pregnancy and force her to not have the abortion.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who sponsored the bill signed by Scott, noted that 26 other states already have waiting periods for abortions and that six states have identical language as Florida. She said the laws in five of those six states were challenged and upheld.

“I am confident precedent will be respected, and I look forward to seeing this effort to protect life and a women’s health become the law of Florida,” Sullivan, R-Eustis, said in the emailed statement.

Scott’s office didn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit.

“This legislation was created just to put needless financial, professional and personal obstacles between Florida women and their right protected by the Florida constitution to seek an abortion if they so choose,” said Nancy Abudu, legal director of ACLU of Florida.

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