Skip to main content

Florida Supreme Court to Determine Fate of Abortion Amendment

Share This article

WASHINGTON – Stakes are high in Florida as the state's Supreme Court considers whether Floridians should get to vote on a new state measure enshrining abortion access in the state's constitution.

This is one of several states where abortion could be on the ballot this November. Ultimately, the future of the abortion battle comes down to wording.

Supporters want to establish a state constitutional right to abortion while critics see it as a total deregulation of the procedure.

Before voters even see a ballot measure, however, state Supreme Court justices must approve the wording and both sides of the issue are weighing in.

Heated oral arguments on abortion access took center stage in the Florida Supreme Court this week on whether voters will see abortion on general election ballots in the form of the proposed state constitutional amendment.

"Is this hiding a ball in some meaningful way or should we not say, you know, the voters can look at this and say, gee, that sounds really sweeping, let's not approve this?'" Florida Supreme Court Justice John Couriel said.

Here's the current proposed language:
"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. This amendment does not change the legislature's constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion."

The Florida Attorney General wants the court to reject that version, saying the definition of the word "viability" is unclear.

"The language of the amendment itself is of such elasticity that an enormously wide range of meanings will attach to it, and voters will not actually understand what they're are voting for," said Nathan Forrester, deputy solicitor general with the Florida Attorney General's office.

A 15-week ban on abortion currently exists in the state.

The pro-choice group "Floridians Protecting Freedom" collected a million signatures to put the abortion amendment on the ballot.

The group maintains the Florida Division of Elections has confirmed the initiative can appear as Amendment 4 on the November ballot pending approval by the Florida Supreme Court.

This fight reflects a nationwide push for states to decide the issue.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, seven states have voted in favor of abortion access, including conservative-leaning states like Kansas, Kentucky, and most recently Ohio.

Opponents say the proposal's words have a real-world impact.

"It is a devastating amendment that they're looking at here," said Mat Staver, a lawyer who spoke on behalf of Florida Voters Against Extremism. "It is exceptionally broad and very, very dangerous, not only to children and families but certainly all of Floridians and all of society because this would create Florida as not just a vacation destination, but an abortion destination."

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed five of the seven justices, as well as Attorney General Ashley Moody. Justices previously held Article 1 Section 23 of the state constitution already protects access to abortion although a law signed by DeSantis would outlaw abortion after 15 weeks.

Share This article

About The Author