ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights Lawsuit - Students Draft Supporting Amicus Brief

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Sawyeh Esmaili, Catherine Kaiman, and Nicole Pecorella

Thanks to Catherine Kaiman, Practitioner-in-Residence and Supervising Attorney of the Environmental Justice Clinic, two law students, 3L Miami Scholar Sawyeh Esmaili and 3L Nicole Pecorella, gained valuable experience drafting an amicus brief Kaiman filed in the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Gainesville Woman Care, LLC, et al. v. State of Florida, et al.

Kaiman, who took the matter on pro bono, filed the amicus in support of the ACLU/Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit before the Florida Supreme Court, challenging Florida’s 24-hour mandatory delay for abortion procedures.

The amicus specifically examined the exemptions in the law for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence who can provide documentation of such abuse and argued that the exemptions are inadequate. The brief also stressed the challenges poor and immigrant women face in trying to secure two appointments with an abortion provider, as would be required under the act. The brief urged the court to strike down the act.

“Through research and speaking with the groups that signed the brief, we really saw how the 24-hour mandatory waiting period affects women of all backgrounds, but specifically for low-income and immigrant women and survivors of trafficking and domestic violence. Having the opportunity to work with students dedicated to reproductive freedom on a pro bono project that has far-reaching implications was a tremendous experience. Hopefully, the brief will help to eliminate this medically unnecessary requirement,” said Kaiman.

Professor Donna Coker played an integral role in the research and drafting of the brief. “It is urgent that the Florida Supreme Court understand that this law creates particular burdens on the right to an abortion for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking,” said Coker.   

Pecorella and Esmaili provided assistance researching the brief. This experience was especially meaningful to them as they share a passion for working on issues impacting women’s rights while in law school and after graduation.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the fight for reproductive rights in Florida, an issue I hope to advocate for through my own legal career,” said Esmaili.

“Advocating for issues of social justice, particularly in the context of reproductive rights and access to healthcare, is my primary motivation for pursuing a legal career. The opportunity to work collectively with Kaiman and fellow student Sawyeh in the research aspect of this brief was an extremely rewarding opportunity, highlighting the direct impact knowledge of the legal system can have on influencing public policy decisions,” said Pecorella.

A coalition of organizations supporting survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and trafficking joined in the filing. These included:

The Anti-Defamation League
The Community Justice Project
Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc.
Florida Coalition Against Sexual Violence
Florida National Organization for Women
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Florida Latina Activist Network
Miami Workers Center
The Women’s Fund
Women’s Emergency Network
Vida Legal Assistance, Inc.

Other experts regarding gender violence, poverty, immigration, and race also participated in the filing including Professors Donna Coker, Mary Anne Franks, and Rebecca Sharpless.

Oral argument was scheduled in the matter for November 1, 2016, and a decision is pending.