Supreme Court allows abortion access to appear on ballots

by | Apr 1, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court approved a proposed amendment for the November ballot to enshrine abortion rights up to the point of fetal viability in the state’s constitution, while concurrently upholding a 15-week abortion ban that triggers a more restrictive six-week ban to take effect in 30 days.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Monday to allow a proposed amendment protecting abortion rights to be placed on the state’s November ballot.

The proposed amendment seeks to establish the right to abortion in Florida up until the point of fetal viability — estimated at around 24 weeks.

Last month, the Court heard oral arguments pertaining to the amendment, where Attorney General Ashley Moody asserted that the proposal misleadingly claims it would prevent any laws from “prohibiting, penalizing, delaying, or restricting abortion,” despite federal laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that impose such restrictions.

The justices scrutinized the argument’s premise, questioning the extent to which voters should be expected to understand the legal nuances the amendment implies, especially in light of federal constraints.

As elucidated in the order, the state’s highest court found the language clear enough for voters, dismissing the challenge and allowing the amendment to proceed to the ballot in a 5-2 decision.

“We conclude that the proposed amendment complies with the single-subject requirement of the Florida Constitution and that the ballot title and summary comply with Florida Statutes,” the opinion read. “There is no basis for concluding that the proposed amendment is facially invalid under
the United States Constitution. Accordingly, we approve the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot.”

Democrat leadership lauded the opinion shortly after it was posted, referring to the forthcoming amendment information campaign as “critical.”

“This ruling shows how critical it is that Floridians pass Amendment 4 this November, because it will protect abortion access in Florida’s constitution,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell. “I look forward to Floridians making their voices heard on Election Day. I believe the people will come out in force to say loudly and clearly that this decision must stay between women and their doctors.”

Republican leaders, meanwhile, stated that the ballot language is “misleading.”

“We are very disappointed that a deceptively worded pro-abortion amendment is allowed to appear on Florida’s ballot in November,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Evan Power. “If passed, it will allow abortions up to 6 months of pregnancy and, thanks to a loophole, even to point of birth.”

Now permitted to appear on ballots, the amendment requires 60 percent of the vote share for ratification. A similar initiative in 2012 seeking abortion access received 55 percent of the vote, thus failing.

A November poll conducted by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab found that 62 percent of respondents would support the amendment, while 29 percent expressed opposition to the measure. 9 percent were undecided or refused to respond.

The Florida Supreme Court concurrently ruled on Monday to uphold a 15-week abortion ban, a decision that activates a more restrictive six-week abortion ban to take effect in 30 days.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 15-week ban, with heavy Republican support, into law in 2022 amid opposition and legal challenges. In 2023 the Florida Legislature drafted and passed a six-week abortion ban into law, which was also quickly met with legal pushback, led by Planned Parenthood Florida.

In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court cited a lack of constitutional grounds, specifically within the Privacy Clause of the state Constitution, to overturn the 15-week ban. The justices highlighted that the plaintiffs failed to prove the law’s unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Planned Parenthood cannot demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim, which alleged that the newly enacted statute was facially invalid under the Privacy Clause of the Florida Constitution,” the Justices wrote in the order. “And since Planned Parenthood fails on this prong, it is not entitled to a temporary injunction.”


%d bloggers like this: