Florida Supreme Court Allows Statewide Vote On Abortion Rights Amendment

The court released the ruling after a delay in the decision last week when its regular Thursday opinion release time came and went.

The Florida Supreme Court approved a pro-choice amendment to appear on the state’s ballot in November in a Monday afternoon ruling.

The high court approved the language of the amendment to appear on the ballot exactly as it was submitted by pro-choice group Floridians Protecting Freedom in a 4-3 ruling.

Floridians Protecting Freedom collected well over the amount of signatures required — more than 1 million — to get the proposal on the November ballot. Amendment 4, also titled “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion,” seeks to guarantee access to abortion care up to fetal viability, which is usually around 24 weeks.

“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 amendment states. The amendment clarifies that it would not change the state’s current law that requires parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion.

“Today, the court affirmed what we’ve known all along: that Amendment 4 clearly satisfies the requirements for placement on the ballot,” Lauren Brenzel said during a press conference after the ruling came out. Brenzel is the campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, which led the Yes on 4 campaign to get Amendment 4 on the ballot.

“We are thrilled Floridians will have the opportunity to reclaim their bodily autonomy and freedom from government interference by voting for Amendment 4 this November,” Brenzel said.

If a majority of Floridians vote for the amendment in November, it will go into effect on the “Tuesday following the first Monday of January,” according to Brenzel.

Andrew Shirvell, founder and executive director of the anti-abortion organization Florida Voice for the Unborn, said in a statement that the group was “profoundly disappointed” in the state Supreme Court’s decision, adding that today was a “dark day for Florida’s unborn children.”

The highly anticipated ruling was seemingly delayed last week after the court’s regular Thursday opinion release time came and went. The court later announced it would release “out-of-calendar opinions” on Monday, which is the deadline for a decision on whether the abortion amendment, as well as one on recreational marijuana, will be on the ballot in November.

Also on Monday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a privacy clause in the state constitution does not extend to abortion care, deeming the current 15-week abortion ban to be constitutional. The ruling gives the go-ahead to a six-week abortion ban that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last year. The six-week abortion ban will take effect 30 days from Monday’s ruling.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the proposal in February and was tasked with approving the amendment language before it appears on the ballot in November. The step is normally more of a procedural one, but in an anti-choice state like Florida, which also has one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in the country, it was another critical hurdle for pro-choice advocates in the state.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) claimed that the amendment was misleading and alleged in briefs that the term “viability” is ambiguous. During arguments in February, Nathan Forrester, with the state attorney general’s office, argued that the ballot language was “understated to the point of deception,” adding that “voters won’t know what they’re voting for.”

“The people of Florida aren’t stupid,” chief Justice Carlos Muñiz said in response to Forrester’s claim. “I mean, they can figure this out.”

The idea of a ballot initiative has been in the works since the end of 2022, after Roe v. Wade fell and DeSantis swiftly passed a 15-week abortion ban. Pro-choice amendments have won out in every state where abortion was on the ballot since 2022, including in red and purple states like Kentucky and Ohio.

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