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Abortion decision heading to the November voting ballot

Protesters marched through Orlando in commemoration of the 50th anniversary since the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country.
Joe Mario Pedersen
Protesters marched through Orlando in commemoration of the 50th anniversary since the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country.

Florida’s abortion landscape received an earthquake’s worth of a shakeup Monday after the Florida Supreme Court released several rulings Monday. Come November, Floridians will decide whether the right to an abortion should be enshrined in the state’s constitution under the landscape of a six-week ban set to take effect next month.

The state Supreme Court not only approved the abortion ballot referendum language in a 4-3 decision but also upheld Gov Ron DeSantis’ 2022 15-week abortion ban triggering 30 days until the 2023 six-week ban goes into play. That ruling came in as a 6-1 decision, which overturned a previous state Supreme Court decision that the right to an abortion was covered in the constitution’s privacy clause.

In September, the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Planned Parenthood, argued that the 15-week ban violated the State Constitution and a clause regarding a resident’s right to health privacy decisions. But on Monday, the court said there was no basis under the privacy clause that invalidated the 15-week ban.

The decision greenlights the six-ban to take effect next month. DeSantis signed that into law last year, but its effectiveness was contingent upon the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling on the 15-week ban case.

“Will this have a dire impact on services? In one month? Yes, it will. And it means that there will be a severe abortion ban in Florida until the vote the voters decide in November,” said Laura Goodhue, the director of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

While the six-week ban does a lot to tighten abortion restrictions, Goodhue is positive Planned Parenthood clinics won’t be closing as a result.

“They'll still be there to provide health care as we have for well over a quarter of a century. Now. Planned Parenthood in Florida provides life-saving care for all Floridians that includes access to birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses, and abortion care,” she said.

Disappointment in the Supreme Court

Goodhue was surprised with how far the court went with its decision, but pro-life supporters like Michele Herzog were disappointed with the court.

“It's like a two-edged sword, you know that you know, you want to be happy, but and celebrate. And at the same time, you just know how dangerous this amendment is?” said Herzog, the director of the Pro-life Action Ministries of Central Florida.

Earlier this year, the group Floridians Protecting Freedom submitted the necessary 1 million signatures (the group said it collected nearly 1.5 million) to place an initiative in support of protecting the right to an abortion on the November ballot for the 2024 general election.

The ballot initiative reads:

“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 health care provider.”

The wording of the proposal was challenged by Attorney General Ashley Moody, arguing the language was deceitful, specifically targeting the use of the word “viability.” Moody said in October that it’s misleading since it has two meanings to mothers. The first meaning is whether or not a baby is expected to have a normal gestation through delivery, and the second is whether or not a baby can survive outside of the uterus.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of keeping the proposal on the ballot.

“I’m incredibly excited that Amendment 4 will be on the ballot this November,” said Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for the ballot initiative, during a press conference Monday. “Floridians will have a chance to vote to remove politicians from their private medical decisions about abortion.”

Herzog did not share in the excitement.

“I’m very, very concerned and very disappointed with the Florida State Supreme Court,” Herzog said.

She fears that should the amendment pass in November, even more abortions will take place in the state.

“If voters vote for this very deceptive and very dangerous abortion amendment, then we're going to become the abortion capital,” she said.

Florida's abortion numbers

According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, there were over 84,000 abortions in Florida last year – an increase of 2,000 abortions compared to 2022. The number of out-of-state abortions also increased from 6,700 in 2022, to 7,700 in 2023.

“We will be doing everything to expose how very dangerous and deceptive this abortion amendment is,” Herzog said. “We are going to work together to let everybody know what this is really all about. And we will be praying that the votes that are needed will not happen and that babies will be protected.”

Florida joins a band of southeast states with tight abortion restrictions. The closest state to Florida with restrictions beyond six weeks is North Carolina, which allows abortions up to 12 weeks.

Goodhue was shocked by the court’s decision to overturn its precedent regarding abortion and the state privacy clause, but she’s hopeful for November.

“For women in our state, this could be a public health crisis, if the voters don't go to the polls in November and don't affirm that government has no place in our bedrooms and no place in determining if and when we can start a family,” she said.

The court also released a third ruling Monday, approving a recreational marijuana amendment for the November ballot.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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