Florida Supreme Court Allows State to Ban Abortion, But Sends Measure to Protect Abortion Rights to the Voters in November

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 1, 2024 6:00 pm

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court issued two decisions on abortion today: The first, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade, reinterpreted the Florida Constitution to permit the state to ban abortion. The second allows Florida voters to decide in November whether to amend the Florida Constitution to explicitly protect access to abortion, despite efforts by Gov. DeSantis and Attorney General Moody to keep the question off the ballot.

In upholding the 15-week ban, the Florida Supreme Court also cleared the way for a law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many people even know they are pregnant — to take effect within 30 days of the Supreme Court’s decision. This is because the Florida Supreme Court’s decision is the trigger for a separate six-week abortion ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year.

The effects of the 15-week ban have already been devastating for Floridians. Since the ban went into effect over a year and a half ago, many people seeking abortions have been forced to travel long distances out of state to access care. Others have been forced to carry pregnancies against their will, subjecting them to the life-altering — and sometimes life-threatening — consequences of pregnancy. The state’s six-week ban will increase these harmful effects by drastically reducing abortion access throughout the state.

Under the ban’s limited exceptions, even patients in dire circumstances have been unable to get the care they need. In one circumstance, a woman whose water broke nearly died of sepsis after being forced to wait for lifesaving care. While her pregnancy could not be saved and failure to end the pregnancy put her life at risk, she was sent to wait at home until her condition was so dangerous that a doctor could induce labor without fear of violating the state’s law. In another situation, a 14-year-old survivor of rape was unable to have an abortion and forced to continue her pregnancy because of Florida’s ban — compounding the traumatic experience the minor had to suffer in addition to sexual assault and an unwanted pregnancy.

Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:

Whitney White, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

“This is a devastating ruling for Floridians and for constitutional rights. Everyone deserves the right to make their own decisions about what is best for their health, their families, and their futures, without politicians standing in the way. But today, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Gov. DeSantis and, with the stroke of a pen, stripped away constitutional protections for the right to abortion that Floridians have relied on for more than four decades. Gov. DeSantis and his political allies now have the green light to unleash the same devastation, chaos, and confusion in Florida that the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed by overturning Roe v. Wade, including a catastrophic six-week abortion ban. We are deeply disappointed with today’s decision — but with abortion on the ballot in November, this is far from over. We won’t give up the fight to restore the reproductive freedom of every person seeking care in Florida.”

Kara Gross, Legislative Director and Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU of Florida:

“This ruling will have catastrophic implications for the people of Florida. The burden of restricting abortion access will fall hardest on people who already face systemic racism and discrimination in this country. Despite today’s ruling, we will not stop fighting for Floridians to have access to essential reproductive care. The overwhelming majority of Floridians support access to abortion and our legislature has consistently ignored the will of the people. The freedom to make our own personal medical decisions without government interference is on the ballot this November, and we urge all Floridians to vote Yes on Amendment 4.”

April Otterberg, Partner, Jenner & Block:

“We are incredibly disappointed by the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to reverse its own precedent and uphold the 15-week abortion ban, thereby paving the way for the State’s even more harmful six-week ban. Until today, the Florida Constitution had long protected the right of pregnant Floridians to decide what happens to their own bodies. The 15-week ban, and now the six-week ban, will put the Government in charge of what should be a deeply personal decision made with one’s family and doctor, and the effects will be–and already have been under the 15-week ban–devastating for those who need essential abortion care. Despite today’s harmful decision, the fight is not over, and we remain committed to doing all we can to reestablish reproductive rights in Florida.”

Nancy Northup, President and CEO, The Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The Florida Supreme Court issued two rulings today—one terribly wrong and one exactly right. They’ve dismantled Floridians’ long-standing right to abortion under the state constitution. Thankfully, Florida voters will have the chance to get that right back this November. Anti-abortion politicians in Florida and across the country have been trying to stop people from voting on abortion rights because they know what the outcome will be. Most Americans support abortion rights, as we have seen with every abortion-related ballot measure since Roe was overturned. Across the country, voters are making it clear that abortion is a fundamental right. Now, Floridians will have the chance to do the same.”

Kelly Flynn, President and CEO of A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville:

“Today’s ruling will undoubtedly cause people across the state to suffer. So many of our patients already struggled to access an abortion under a 15-week ban. Now, the lives of even more Floridians will be in danger as basic health care is pushed further out of reach. It is heart-wrenching that we will be forced to turn countless patients away. No one should be forced to travel thousands of miles and across state lines in search of essential care. Our patients deserve better—they deserve compassionate and timely abortion care in their home communities. This November we will have the opportunity to fight back against this devastating ruling at the ballot box by voting to enshrine the right to abortion in the Florida state Constitution.”

Dr. Robyn Schickler, CMO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida:

“Today the Florida Supreme Court upended decades of precedent protecting Floridians’ privacy and ability to have control over their own bodies. As a healthcare provider, I know how important it is for patients to have the ability to control their own bodies and make their own health care decisions. With this ruling, these justices have ushered in a dangerous era for Florida. Allowing a six-week abortion ban to go into effect puts the health and lives of patients at grave risk in our state. We look forward to the November election where voters can vote yes on Amendment 4 and put an end to this invasive government interference in our healthcare decisions.”

Alexandra Mandado, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida:

“This decision puts the lives of pregnant Floridians in peril, plain and simple. We have already seen the harmful impact the 15-week ban has had on our patients and their families. Today these justices cleared the way for the state’s ban on abortion after six-weeks, before many people even realize they are pregnant. This ruling is as extreme as it is unethical and will lead to unnecessarily dangerous health outcomes for Floridians. But we will keep advocating for our patients and their families. And in November, Floridians will have the opportunity to amend the Constitution to protect abortion access. Until we return to Floridians having control of their own lives and futures, we won’t be truly free in the state of Florida.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“With today’s devastating court decision, Floridians now have even fewer rights than they did yesterday. Their freedom to control their own bodies and lives has been undermined. Their lives and their families are further at risk. They are about to face an even more dangerous abortion ban than before. Planned Parenthood and our partners will continue to support Floridians in getting the care they need — and in fighting to regain reproductive freedom for the state.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm Jenner & Block filed the case — Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, et al. v. State of Florida, et al. — on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida; Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida; Gainesville Woman Care; Indian Rocks Woman’s Center; St. Petersburg Woman’s Health Center; Tampa Woman’s Health Center; A Woman’s Choice of Jacksonville; and an individual physician plaintiff.

The ruling issued today in the abortion ban litigation can be found online here, and the ruling on the abortion ballot measure can be found here.

 


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