- The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on September 8 regarding a legal challenge against the state’s 2022 fifteen-week abortion law.
- The lawsuit argues that the law violates the state constitution’s guarantee of privacy rights and obstructs the government’s authority to enforce abortion regulations.
- The outcome of the hearing could have significant implications for reproductive rights and the enforceability of existing legislation in Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court announced on Friday afternoon that it will hear oral arguments on September 8 in regard to a legal challenge against the state’s 2022 fifteen-week abortion law.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5 into law last year, restricting abortion after the fifteenth week of pregnancy. The bill allowed for exceptions for instances of medical necessity or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality, but did not allow exemptions in cases of rape, incest, or human trafficking.
Following the enactment of the fifteen-week ban last year, a collective legal action was undertaken by Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, along with seven abortion clinics and a physician, in the form of a lawsuit. The challenge contests the constitutional validity of the aforementioned abortion legislation.
The plaintiffs assert that a specific clause from Article I, Section 23 of the Florida constitution, articulating the entitlement of “every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life,” embodies an explicit guarantee of privacy rights, thus obstructing the government’s authority to enforce the regulation.
“Florida’s Constitution has long embodied the principle that few decisions are more personal and intimate, more properly private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy, than a woman’s decision . . . whether to end her pregnancy,” reads the lawsuit. “A woman’s right to make that choice freely is fundamental.”
The state trial court, presided over by Judge John Cooper, issued an order blocking the 15-week ban on July 5, 2022, ruling that the legislation likely violates the state’s constitution and will cause irreparable harm. The State of Florida appealed the ruling with the First District Court of Appeal, triggering an automatic stay of the injunction and signaling that the abortion ban remained in effect and may be implemented.
The upcoming hearing holds significant implications for the landscape of reproductive policies within the state, with the potential to shape the future trajectory of reproductive rights enforceability of active legislation.
Florida’s fifteen-week ban has since been expanded with the passage of the ‘Heartbeat Protection Act‘ in April, effectively prohibiting abortion procedures in Florida following the sixth week of pregnancy.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Erin Grall, includes provisions that permit abortion procedures in cases where the individual is a victim of rape or incest up to the fifteenth week of pregnancy, which were not part of last year’s original abortion regulation. DeSantis expressed support for these exceptions in response to previous inquiries.
“I think those exceptions are sensible, and as I said, we welcome pro-life legislation,” said DeSantis.
The six-week measure also prevents any person, governmental entity, or educational institution from utilizing public funds to transport an individual to another state to receive services intended to terminate a pregnancy.
It also grants $25 million in appropriations to establish a series of parental assistance services, which, according to the bill, would promote and encourage childbirth through nonmedical material assistance, counseling, and classes regarding pregnancy, among others. An additional $5 million in recurring general revenue is appropriated for family planning services provided by the Department of Health.
The bill was quickly scorned by Democrats, including Sen. Lauren Book, who unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers last year alongside Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to introduce rape and incest exceptions.
“This dangerous ban turns back the clock on women’s rights — bringing the government into exam rooms and criminalizing women and their doctors over private healthcare decisions.,” said Book. “This is not freedom.”
A University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab poll conducted last month indicates that the measure is generally opposed in Florida, with 62 percent of respondents stating that they strongly oppose the measure, including 84 percent of Democrats, 40 percent of Republicans, and 63 percent of independent participants.