TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Health care providers argued before a Florida judge on Monday that the state’s new ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy violates the state constitution, and urged the court to block its enforcement.
The law, signed this spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is set to take effect on Friday. Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade last week, the Florida plaintiffs argue that the new law violates the state constitution’s protection of individual privacy rights. In previous rulings, that has been interpreted to include the right to abortion.
Judge John C. Cooper of the state’s Second Judicial Circuit Court began the hearing on Monday morning by reminding the parties that he was required to follow the law — and not attempt to predict how the Florida Supreme Court would ultimately rule in the future.
Dr. Shelly Tien, a gynecologist who works for Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville as well as a clinic in Arizona, testified on Monday morning that abortion is a safe and common procedure. She said that women who seek abortions after 15 weeks often do so amid a crisis.
“Women and girls who need abortions after 15 weeks tend to have the most challenging and compelling life circumstances,” Dr. Tien said. She said those circumstances include poverty, being the victim of domestic abuse, and having developed complications to an intended pregnancy.
Andrew Shirvell, the founder and executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, expressed skepticism before the hearing that Judge Cooper would uphold the new abortion ban. “He’s clearly on the plaintiffs’ side,” Mr. Shirvell said.
Until now, Florida has had fewer restrictions on abortion than other Southern states, making it a refuge for women across the region who are seeking abortions. The new law is similar to the Mississippi statute at the heart of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade; it includes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Testimony is expected to last throughout the day on Monday, and the judge is likely to rule this week.