Florida Voters Will Get to Vote on Hyper-Restrictive Abortion Ban in November

Reuters/Marco Bello
Reuters/Marco Bello

Floridians will be able to vote on abortion protections this fall, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Monday—a win celebrated by the state’s Democrats despite the court, in a separate case, also paving the way for a law to take effect that will ban all abortions after six weeks.

That six-week abortion ban, passed by Florida’s Republican-majority legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, will go into effect on May 1. That measure can be undone by voters come November, however.

The court’s decision is expected to reverberate across Florida and the southeast. A privacy protection clause in the Florida constitution had allowed the Sunshine State to enjoy abortion access up to 15 weeks despite DeSantis being at the helm—access that women relied upon in nearby states like Alabama and Mississippi, where abortion is outright banned, and in Georgia and South Carolina, which have laws similar to Florida’s soon-to-be-active six-week ban.

The lawsuit that challenged the newly-passed bans were brought by Planned Parenthood, which argued the privacy clause explicitly protected a right to abortion in the state.

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Lawyers for the state countered that the clause, which was adopted by a voter referendum in 1980, was never meant to cover abortion and made no mention of it on the ballot back then. They argued the clause was mainly meant to cover “informational privacy” such as personal records—not medical decisions.

Florida’s Supreme Court, which had five of its seven justices appointed by DeSantis, ruled in favor of the state on Monday, 6-1. Now, Florida women will often be barred from having an abortion before many realize they’re even pregnant.

Voters will have a chance to change the ban come November, however, as the justices gave an OK for a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution to be on Florida ballots.

That amendment, if it received at least 60 percent of votes in favor of it, would significantly protect abortion access in Florida. Its text reads, in part, that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before fetal viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” Viability is estimated to be around six months of pregnancy.

The Florida Supreme Court voted 4-3 in favor of approving the amendment to reach the ballot—a tight victory for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood, which has championed the proposed amendment.

Florida is the latest battleground for abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion access for decades at the federal level.

Abortion protections have made it on the ballot in seven other states, with pro-choice advocates coming away successful in each instance. That included a vote in Ohio where voters passed an amendment similar to what will soon be on Florida ballots—making abortion legal up until viability.

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