Florida Supreme Court clears the way for abortion ballot initiative while upholding 15-week abortion ban

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that a state constitutional amendment that would limit government intervention in abortion procedures across Florida meets the necessary requirements to appear on ballots this November, and at the same time upheld Florida’s 15-week abortion ban.

The court, which usually issues decisions on Thursdays, issued the rulings in a pair of out-of-calendar opinions.

The court’s decision to uphold the 15-week abortion ban clears the way for the six-week ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last April to go into effect. Planned Parenthood had sought to challenge the law, citing Florida’s broad privacy protections, arguing that those protections included the right to an abortion. The court disagreed.

“Based on our analysis finding no clear right to abortion embodied within the Privacy Clause, Planned Parenthood cannot overcome the presumption of constitutionality and is unable to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the 15-week ban is unconstitutional,” the state high court ruled.

The pro-abortion rights ballot initiative was introduced by Floridians Protecting Freedoms, a statewide campaign that argues “that all Floridians deserve the freedom to make personal medical decisions, including about abortion, free of government intrusion,” according to its website. 

The proposed state constitutional abortion amendment, which will appear on ballots this fall as Amendment 4, would allow abortions before viability, but it would still require parents to be notified if a minor has an abortion. 

“No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider,” the ballot measure reads. “This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.” 

Amendment 4 will require 60% support to pass.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, had argued against the proposed amendment, taking issue with the word “viability” in the ballot initiative. In a brief filed to the court in November, Moody said, “There is no single formally recognized clinical definition of ‘viability.'” 

Lawyers representing Floridians Protecting Freedoms argued that “viability” is not ambiguous and that voters understand what it means in the context of an abortion. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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