Florida Supreme Court Obliterates Abortion Access in the South—But There’s 1 Small Silver Lining

The Court will allow Florida's brutal six-week abortion ban to take effect, but it will also allow a ballot measure to enshrine a constitutional right to abortion to move forward.

Florida Supreme Court Obliterates Abortion Access in the South—But There’s 1 Small Silver Lining

After months of deliberation, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the state’s 15-week abortion ban is constitutional—allowing a six-week abortion ban (which has been pending since Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed it last year) to take effect in 30 days. But the state Supreme Court, which consists largely of DeSantis appointees, also approved a proposed ballot measure for November that will allow voters to determine whether they want to establish a constitutional right to abortion.

For the rest of April, abortion will remain legal through 15 weeks in Florida. But when the six-week ban takes effect in May, abortion access will be obliterated across the South. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, a rash of abortion bans swept the region, including all of Florida’s neighboring states (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina). North Carolina is the closest state where abortion is available until 12 weeks. Florida’s six-week ban—which, again, is effectively a total abortion ban because many people don’t know they’re pregnant or can’t access abortion within six weeks—is catastrophic for pregnant people in Florida and across the South, as an estimated 7,000 people traveled to the state for abortion last year.

But abortion rights groups are simultaneously celebrating the court’s decision to allow a ballot measure to move forward. This comes after the state attorney general sued in October to prevent the measure from making it onto ballots despite how advocates collected all the necessary signatures. At the time, she baselessly claimed the language is ambiguous around whether the measure would allow abortions past “fetal viability.” In reality, the proposed amendment states: “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 is about as clear as it gets.

“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,” Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director Lauren Brenzel said in a statement shared with Jezebel. In light of the six-week ban that will soon take effect, Brenzel says the ballot measure “is our chance to engage in direct democracy to stop these unpopular and harmful policies.”

“Polls have consistently shown well over 60% of Florida voters support limiting government intrusion in the personal health care decision of accessing abortion care,” Brenzel continued. “Floridians value their freedom from government interference, and they will make that known loud and clear with their votes in November.” The Center for Reproductive Rights also tweeted “Abortion wins elections,” with their president and CEO Nancy Northrup calling the decision “a win for democracy.”

Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Florida Voice for the Unborn celebrated the ruling on the 15 and six-week abortion bans but called this “a silver lining in an otherwise dark day” in light of the decision to allow the ballot measure to move forward, characterizing the court as “a paper tiger when it comes to standing up to the murderous abortion industry.”

In every state where abortion rights have been put directly on the ballot, they’ve won. Just last November, despite one daunting hurdle from the state’s anti-abortion government officials after another, Ohio overwhelmingly approved a measure to establish a right to abortion. Floridians Protecting Freedom—the coalition that’s leading the charge for the measure—collected well over the required 891,523 signatures necessary to get the abortion measure on the ballot, submitting over a million signatures by December, per Politico. Also in December, Floridians Protecting Freedom shared that at least 150,000 of those signatures came from Republican voters, indicating impressive bipartisan support for the measure.

“What’s clear is people from across the political spectrum don’t want the government making decisions for them and their doctors,” Brenzel told Jezebel in a statement at the time. “We’re all different and we all have different approaches with different audiences, but we share a common goal—to ensure every patient in Florida needing reproductive health care can get it, not what politicians think they should have access to, but what patients and their health care providers think is best.”

While the ballot measure is cause for hope for the future of abortion access in Florida, the election isn’t for another seven months and if the measure is successful, there will almost certainly be more barriers for it to take effect as we’ve unfortunately seen play out in Ohio. In the meantime, within a month, abortion access will be all but decimated in the South.

People in need of abortion care in Florida can still seek support from abortion funds in the state here. You can donate to Florida abortion funds here

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