US judge considers fate of new Florida abortion law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS / AP) – A federal judge is considering whether to block a new law that places restrictions on abortion clinics in Florida.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said at an hour-long hearing Wednesday that he may rule before the law takes effect Friday.

Hinkle sharply questioned attorneys representing both Planned Parenthood and the state. But Hinkle also questioned whether the new law was a way to stop Planned Parenthood from doing something that is currently legal in Florida.

The state budget provides that no family planning money can go to an organization that also provides abortions, even if the money is kept separate. The law also requires the state to inspect half of all abortion records every year, and it appears to redefine when pregnancy begins in an effort to shorten the available time for an abortion from 13 to 11 weeks.

On all three issues, Judge Robert Hinkle peppered attorneys with questions. He likened cutting off family planning cash to the states failed efforts to drug test welfare recipients, saying people can’t be penalized for engaging in constitutional conduct.

Afterwards, Planned Parenthood attorney Carrie Flaxman was upbeat.

“The law is quite clear, Supreme Court Case after Supreme Court case. You can not deprive an entity of funds because of constitutionally protected conduct they engage in with other funds, and that is precisely what this law does” Flaxman told reporters.

If left to stand, the law would require more than 35 thousand records be inspected each year, something Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Planned Parenthood SW and Central FL,

called unworkable and intrusive.

“Looking at those records certainly puts the confidentiality of the patients in jeopard” says the CEO.

The judge has said he’ll try to have a ruling before Friday. but that’s not a guarantee. and if he doesn’t rule, Planned Parenthood says it will comply with the law.

Planned parenthood says a loss of state funding would stop non abortion services for about 15 thousand mostly low income people.

A 24 hour waiting period also in the law has already been stopped by the State Supreme Court in another lawsuit filed against the legislation. The High Court has not yet scheduled a hearing.

Florida’s new law also includes provision modeled on a Texas law struck down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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