April 12, 2024

Florida Supreme Court gives green light to six-week abortion ban

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leaves after speaking at a Concerned Women for America Summit on September 15, 2023.

The Supreme Court of the State of Florida ruled this Monday that the state constitution does not protect abortion care — declaring the current 15-week ban constitutional and greenlighting a six-week ban that will take effect in 30 days.

The Supreme Court ruled that a privacy clause in the state constitution does not protect abortion care.

“The parties have presented thoughtful arguments regarding the scope of this provision, traditionally referred to as the ‘Privacy Clause.’ These legal arguments about the meaning of the Privacy Clause are, in our view, divorced from the serious moral, ethical and policy issues involved in the subject matter of this case,” the ruling said.

“Our analysis focuses on the text of the privacy clause, its context and the historical evidence surrounding its adoption,” the ruling continues. “After considering each of these sources and consistent with long-standing principles of judicial deference to legislative provisions, we conclude that there is no basis under the Privacy Clause to invalidate the statute.”

Pro-choice groups and abortion providers filed suit against the state in 2022 after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the 15-week ban into effect. The state Supreme Court, which DeSantis has supplemented with conservative justices in recent years, agreed last year to hear arguments in the case but allowed the 15-week ban to remain in effect during that time.

Dr. Cecilia Grande, a Florida gynecologist, told reporters Monday afternoon that a six-week abortion ban would be “very harmful” to birthing people in Florida.

“This represents virtually a total ban,” Grande said. “We expect that patients will experience delays in care, and that’s not good for the doctors and that’s not good for patients… It’s a very bad deal for the women of Florida to get a six-week ban. ”

Also on Monday, the Florida Supreme Court approved a pro-choice amendment that would appear on the state’s ballot in November. The amendment aims to protect abortion until the viability of the fetus, usually around 24 weeks.

Oral arguments in the lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other parties, were heard in September.

“Abortion has been a recognized right in Florida for decades,” Whitney White, an attorney for the ACLU, said during oral arguments. “There is no basis in the text to exclude a decision as personal and as private as continuing a pregnancy.”

Last year, the state legislature passed a six-week abortion ban, including exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking, but only during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. To obtain an abortion, the survivor must provide “a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation” to prove she was the victim of rape or incest. according to the bill.

The six-week ban also includes an exception for the life of the pregnant person if two doctors certify in writing that the woman will die if she continues the pregnancy. However, several Democrats have criticized the two-doctor requirement, citing a lack of doctors in rural areas that could prevent women from receiving life-saving care.

The six-week abortion ban has now been imposed will come into effect in one month April 1st. The legislation, that DeSantis signed during a private ceremony in the dark of night not only bans abortion after six weeks – a point at which most people don’t even realize they are pregnant – but also bans telehealth for abortion care and assignments $25 million per year to support misleading anti-abortion pregnancy centers.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the Privacy Clause in the Florida Constitution provides broad protections for privacy rights, including the right to abortion. But the state argued that the clause, which was passed in a 1980 voter referendum, was not explicitly intended to protect abortion care but rather to cover the privacy of information in things like personal data.

“This is a 50-year reflection of our society, of our state, that the elected representatives of the people believe that there is a compelling interest in protecting human life. Why wouldn’t we as a court respond to that?” Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz asked White during oral arguments, implying that protections for abortion care were not explicitly included in the privacy clause.

“This is the largest loss of care we have seen since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”

– Lauren Brenzel, Campaign Director, Floridians Protecting Freedom

The 15-week abortion ban, which has remained in place amid legal battles, also includes: no exceptions for rape or incest, and only allows exceptions if the pregnant person is at risk of serious injury or death if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. But like HuffPost’s Sara Boboltz reportedLife-saving exceptions to abortion bans often do not work in practice. And there have been multiple copies where the lives of Florida women took place endanger because she care was denied.

A six-week abortion ban will likely devastate access not only for Floridians, but also for people seeking care in the Southeast. Florida became a safe haven for abortion care after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections in 2022, prompting nearly a dozen states, mostly in the Southeast, to enact near-total abortion bans. People in that part of the country who have the means to travel have largely gone to Florida or North Carolina to get abortion care.

North Carolina introduced a 12-week abortion ban last year, and South Carolina introduced a six-week ban. The last safe haven for abortion in the region is now Virginia. Abortion bans like those in the Southeast disproportionately affect low-income people, women of color, people living in rural areas, women with disabilities, and transgender and gender non-conforming people.

“This is about to create an unprecedented public health crisis in the state of Florida,” Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, the group behind the pro-choice amendment, said during a news conference Monday.

“This is the largest loss of care we have seen since the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Brenzel said, referring to the six-week abortion ban. “What we know is that Florida is a state that is largely surrounded by water, and where it is not surrounded by water, it is surrounded by states that already have a total or near-total ban — meaning that even for patients who need access have to have a medically necessary abortion, the road to this will be difficult.”

Voters have protected abortion in every state where it has been on the ballot since 2022, including red and purple states like Kentucky and Ohio.

“Floridians deserve the freedom to decide when and how they want to grow their families. They deserve the freedom to decide what is best for their bodies and for their lives,” said Dr. Robyn Schickler, a gynecologist in central Florida and the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Southwest, during a news conference after oral arguments in early September. .

“Even if our courts fail us, Floridians have the opportunity to protect that freedom,” she said. “If approved by voters, a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment would provide strong protection against government interference in our reproductive health decisions. As a physician and as a Floridian, this amendment and the fervor Floridians brought to get it on the ballot give me hope – hope for my patients, for our communities and our future.”

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Online Sexual Assault Hotline or the Website of the National Resource Center for Sexual Violence.

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