Challenge to FL abortion law begins inside Leon County courtroom

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 8:30 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - With abortion rights on the conscience of the nation, a challenge to freeze Florida’s incoming ban of abortions after 15 weeks took center stage Monday inside a Leon County courtroom.

A ruling from a Leon County judge is expected late this week.

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, and other groups filed a lawsuit against the state on June 1, arguing the law violates the Florida Constitution.

The state constitution has a more robust right to privacy clause compared with the U.S. Constitution.

HB 5 was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, restricting legal abortions from 24 to 15 weeks into gestation.

A number of lawyers representing both sides crowded into Courtroom 3G to argue their case.

The challengers called one witness to the stand, Dr. Shelly Tien, who works at a Planned Parenthood location in Jacksonville.

She argued that abortions are safe and those who are looking for abortions after 15 weeks are sometimes the most vulnerable.

“I have found that women and girls who need abortions after 15 weeks are those that tend to have the most challenging and compelling life circumstances,” Tien said. “They are women who are struggling economically, that may be living in poverty or near poverty.”

Tien also argued that asking women to “speed up” the timeline in order to get an abortion within 15 weeks is unreasonable.

“Life factors that are affecting them don’t just go away. Poverty doesn’t just go away. Struggles with substance abuse doesn’t just go away. Violence doesn’t just go away,” she said.

Attorneys representing the State called two witnesses, both doctors with Pro-Life positions.

Dr. Ingrid Skop is an OBGYN based in Texas who argued under oath that not all abortions are safe, recalling experiences treating women harmed both physically and emotionally.

“I’ve cared for many women in my clinical setting who have been injured emotionally by abortion….abortions become substantially more difficult and dangerous after the fifteenth week of gestation,” Skop said.

During cross examination, ACLU lawyers pushed back, noting many large medical organizations consider abortions safe.

Andrew Shirvell, who leads the Florida Voice for the Unborn, said that watching the morning testimony unfold was frustrating considering where things are headed.

“It’s really unfortunate, I think this is just kind of a show hearing, it’s important to develop the record for the state, but right now they have to do a little bit better job,” Shirvell said. “The plaintiff’s attorney is making a pretty substantial record.”

Judge John Cooper said closing arguments will take place Thursday, and he may offer a verbal ruling the same day. The law is set to take effect this Friday, July 1.

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