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Federal judge blocks Florida abortion counseling law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Friday blocked [opinion, PDF] a Florida law that would require individuals and groups that offer abortion advice to provide an in-depth explanation of the procedure, lay out potential alternatives, notify parents before making a referral or aiding a minor, and register with the state.

The plaintiffs, including a minister, two rabbis, the Palm Beach chapter of the National Organization for Women and others, brought suit against [AP report] the Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration [official website] and
the Florida Attorney General, arguing against three provisions of the law.

First, the plaintiffs challenged the $200 registration fee required to provide counseling or referrals. Second, the plaintiffs challenged the compelled-speech provision, which requires a referral or counseling agency, "before making a referral or aiding a person in obtaining an abortion," to "furnish such person with a full and detailed explanation of abortion, including the effects of and alternatives to abortion." Finally, the plaintiffs challenged the parental-notification provision, which requires these agencies to make a "good faith effort" to contact a minor's parents.

Judge Robert Hinkle concluded that the advice the plaintiffs provide is protected by the First Amendment, so the state cannot compel them to register and pay a fee. He further noted that the state does not require similar groups and individuals giving advice on other medical procedures to register with the state.

Governor Rick Scott's office said on Saturday that the ruling is being reviewed.

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