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Florida abortion law blocked by federal judge

Planned Parenthood cheered a judge’s blocking of a couple key abortion standards in Florida.

A federal judge put a hold on crucial portions of a Florida law set to take effect on Friday that would have set new health standards for abortion clinics and blocked funding for Planned Parenthood.

Gov. Rick Scott gave his signature to measures earlier this year that would have outright prevented any state or local tax dollars from being sent to any organization that provides abortions. Planned Parenthood decried the measure, saying it would have shorted its facilities by $500,000 of funding that was used for health care screenings and for school dropout prevention programs.

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Another aspect of the new law would have required the state to inspect medical records of clinical patients once a year. Planned Parenthood, which launched an immediate challenge to the law, said that provision would have violated the privacy of about 35,000 patients.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said both parts of that rule were “based not on any objection to how the funds are being spent … but solely because the recipients of the funds choose to provide abortions separate and apart from any public funding,” the Associated Press reported.

He also wrote in his ruling, “the Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly – by withholding otherwise-available public funds – conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly.”

Planned Parenthood cheered Hinkle’s ruling.

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“With today’s ruling, Planned Parenthood is more committed than ever to both serving our patients and fighting back against politicians who are bent on attacking access to women’s health,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, AP reported.

But Scott’s administration said it was “looking” at the ruling to see what actions could be taken to uphold the will of the legislature.

The judge’s ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court just struck down a similar law that had been passed in Texas. Hinkle did not cite that case in his ruling. His injunction places a hold on the funding and inspection aspects of the law until he can writing a full ruling that looks at the merits of Planned Parenthood’s suit.