Florida Supreme Court clears the way for a 6-week abortion ban — and for a November ballot measure that could invalidate it

People gather outside the Florida Supreme Court
People gather outside the Florida Supreme Court, Feb. 7. (Brendan Farrington/AP)

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday issued two key decisions on abortion, delivering a win for advocates on opposing sides of the issue.

In one ruling, the conservative-leaning court found that the state Constitution’s privacy protections don’t cover abortion, and that a 15-week ban on the procedure enacted in 2022 could stand. That decision also clears the way for a six-week abortion ban signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis to go into effect in 30 days. The six-week ban makes exceptions for rape, incest and for when the life of the mother is in danger.

In a separate decision, however, the court ruled that voters in Florida will also get to decide in November whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. The measure would guarantee the right to abortion “before viability,” which is usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But in order to be added to the state’s constitution, it will need to be passed with a 60% supermajority.

How will the abortion ballot initiative be presented to voters?

The initiative will appear on the Florida ballot under the title “Amendment to Limit Government Interference With Abortion.” Below that, voters will be presented with the following summary of the amendment: “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.”

A yes vote will indicate support for establishing a state constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable.

A no vote indicates opposition to establishing a state constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable.

The full text of the proposed amendment can be read here.

If passed, what would the amendment do?

The amendment would overturn Florida’s abortion restrictions, including limits on how far along into a person’s pregnancy they can have the procedure as well as other requirements like waiting periods and forced ultrasounds before the procedure. If the amendment is passed, it could also have the effect of expanding abortion access beyond Florida’s borders. Neighboring states like Georgia and Alabama have enacted laws either banning abortion completely or after six weeks, which is before many women even know they are pregnant.

What other states could have abortion measures on the 2024 ballot?

Voters in New York and Maryland, in addition to Florida, will decide on constitutional amendments to enshrine reproductive health rights in their state constitutions.

Eight other states, including Arkansas and South Dakota, could also have abortion measures on the ballot this November.

Since 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which established abortion as a constitutional right and allowed states to decide on the issue, abortion rights supporters have focused on enshrining reproductive health rights in state constitutions through ballot initiatives.

Voters in seven states have sided with abortion rights supporters when the issue was put on the ballot, including in Republican-led states like Kansas and Kentucky. Passage of the measure under consideration in Florida would mark another win for abortion rights advocates, signaling that the Republican Party’s victory in overturning Roe is being undone one state at a time.