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ACLU sues Florida to stop state's 15-week abortion ban

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state's 15-week abortion ban into law mid-April. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/746ada6e2b5d7324c97820bc5d5105a5/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state's 15-week abortion ban into law mid-April. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

June 2 (UPI) -- A coalition of abortion providers in Florida have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's 15-week abortion ban on the grounds that it violates privacy and constitutional rights.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civili Liberties Union of Florida on behalf two Planned Parenthood organizations and several abortion providers in the state asks the court to block the law before it takes effect July 1.

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The widely anticipated lawsuit was filed nearly two months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 14 signed the controversial House Bill 5 into law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks as dated from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period without exceptions for pregnancies the result of rape, incest or human trafficking.

Once the law is enacted next month, abortions will only be allowed if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or prevent substantial harm, and the ban will be enforced by threatening doctors who perform the medical procedure after the 15-week frame with criminal convictions and jail.

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The previous Florida law banned abortions at 24 weeks.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses the act of violating the fundamental privacy rights protected by the state's Constitution, denying residents the autonomy over their own bodies and undermining the ability to make personal healthcare decisions without government interference.

"Absent an injunction, the act will prevent Floridians from exercising their fundamental constitutional right to decide whether to have an abortion prior to viability, causing irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law," the ACLU of Florida said in the court document.

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The abortion providers' attorneys argued in the court document that the act violates amendments Florida voters made to the state's Constitution in 1980 to guarantee a broad right of privacy, which the state's Supreme Court has recognized as a woman's right to privacy over whether she decides to terminate a pregnancy.

In 2012, state voters essentially reaffirmed that right when they rejected a ballot initiative that aimed to overturn the amendments with the intention to ban abortions, the attorneys said.

Despite this history to protect abortion rights, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed this act in what the ACLU lawyers said in the lawsuit was "a brazen attempt to override the will of the Florida people."

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"H.B. 5 radically curtails the ability of Floridians to make decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy and have a child, in violation of their rights under the Florida Constitution," it said.

The lawsuit states that not only will the act cause "immediate and irreparable harm" to Floridians seeking abortion but also threatens clinics and healthcare professionals who provide healthcare to patients.

"This law blatantly rejects Floridians' need for essential abortion care and their strong support for the right to get an abortion," Daniel Tilley, legal director at ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. "Not only does H.B. 5 defy the will of the people, it ignores the real life circumstances of people who need an abortion and deliberately puts them in harm's way."

Andrew Shirvell, executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, a Christian anti-abortion lobbying group based in Tallahassee, called the lawsuit meritless, arguing the Florida Constitution does not directly mention the right to abortion.

"Florida Voice for the Unborn predicts that the pro-abortion lawsuit filed today will end up back-firing on the Florida abortion industry because this case most likely will service as a vehicle by which the Florida Supreme Court will overturn its misguided precedents that wrongly interpreted the state Constitution as guaranteeing Florida women the right to obtain an abortion independent of the federal Constitution," Shirvell said in a statement.

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The lawsuit was filed amid a Republican movement at the state level to restrict access to abortion nationwide. It also comes in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft decision that appears to show the high court is poised to overturn federal protections for the medical procedure.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an pro-abortion rights research organization, at least 541 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 42 sates so far this year, with 42 of those restrictions having been enacted and another 38 having passed as least on congressional chamber.

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