Major Constitutional Ruling Reached Regarding Abortion Law

( The Florida Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings on April 1 that upheld the state’s 15-week abortion ban, paved the way for a six-week ban to take effect 30 days after the ruling, and allowed a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion to appear on ballots in November.

The proposed amendment would prohibit restrictions on abortion “before viability” or when necessary to protect the health of a pregnant woman. However, Florida officials are divided on the proposal, due to concerns about leaving unclear guidelines on what constitutes viability and medical necessity.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody argued in a November 2023 court filing that pro-abortion advocates will interpret the language to be much broader in scope than voters would anticipate. Moody also contended that leaving the question of viability up to healthcare providers would impact the state’s ability to intervene in abortion cases.

Nevertheless, the Florida Supreme Court approved the proposed amendment’s appearance on ballots in November. The amendment will require support from 60% of Florida voters in order to take effect.

The Florida Supreme Court also upheld the state’s 15-week abortion ban in a separate ruling on April 1, which enables a six-week ban approved by Governor Ron DeSantis to take effect as well. The court ruled that there is no basis under the state constitution’s privacy clause to invalidate the laws.

However, Florida voters will be able to effectively overturn the laws themselves if they approve the proposed constitutional amendment. Laura Goodhue, the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said that the group is “thrilled” by the court’s decision to allow the amendment on the ballot. The coinciding ruling in favor of abortion restrictions makes the initiative all the more important, Goodhue said.

Efforts to both impose and challenge state-level abortion restrictions have escalated since the US Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections and returned the issue to the states in its June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. The Florida Supreme Court’s rulings seemingly affirm that the issue ought to be handled by the state’s legislature and voters.

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