Florida Supreme Court to hear pivotal battle over abortion

Florida’s abortion rights groups will be heading to the Supreme Court of Florida this week to push for abortion protection on the November ballot.

The court will hear arguments on Wednesday to determine if the language of the ballot measure is in compliance with state laws, which is the last hurdle before the question may be asked to the voters. The court must issue a decision by April 1.

The state division of election has officially designated the amendment as Amendment 4 pending Supreme Court review.

The measure, if successful, could overturn the state’s ban on abortions. It would be a major blow to Governor. Ron DeSantis and conservative lawmakers have tightened rules to make it harder for groups to successfully launch ballot measures.


Florida is among a few red and purple-colored states where groups are trying to get measures that protect abortion on the ballot for 2024. This follows a string of victories in Kansas and Ohio.

Florida bans abortions at 15 weeks. The state also bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, but that law hasn’t been passed yet.

Legal experts believe that it shouldn’t be important what the topic is. Abortion advocates are confident the measure will get on the ballot. The court should only consider if the question is about one subject and if the language accurately describes the amendment.

The court is openly anti-abortion and extremely conservative. DeSantis appointed five of the seven Supreme Court Justices. In a separate case they seem to be poised to maintain the 15-week abortion ban.

Ashley Moody, the Republican Attorney General, launched a vigorous campaign against this measure. She will argue, along with anti-abortion organizations, that the ballot language is confusing and unclear, and that the court should disqualify the measure.

The ballot language would include the following: “No law may prohibit, penalize or delay abortion before viability, or when it is necessary to protect a patient’s health as determined by their healthcare provider.”

In her first brief, filed at the end October, Moody claimed that the amendment was an effort to “hoodwink”, voters into accepting a framework which will allow abortions with little or no restrictions.

The ballot summary is part of an overall plan to plant ticking timebombs, which will allow abortion advocates to later argue that the amendment’s meaning was much wider than voters thought.

Moody took particular issue with “healthcare provider,” as well as “viability” & “health”.

According to Moody “viability” has more than one meaning and supporters will push for even more laxer abortion rules. Moody wrote that the language of the amendment would allow health care providers to decide what constitutes a “viability” for a pregnancy, and if the “health” or the pregnant woman justified an abortion at late term.

She added in a subsequent brief that, if the court approves the amendment, “the legislature and executive retain their traditional constitutional role” to define and enforce viability and health.

In a brief in support of the amendment, former Republican officials headed by ex-Lt. Jennifer Carroll stated that the state asked the court to set a higher standard for reviewing the ballot measures than any other measure.

The officials stated that Florida values the right of citizens to determine their own fundamental laws. Courts exercise extreme caution before blocking citizen initiatives.

The officials wrote: “Whether or not one supports abortion, the constitutionally protected citizens initiative process should proceed and the initiative should be brought to the people as suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs, so that they themselves can decide on the issue.”

In Florida, it is common to have the Supreme Court review a ballot question. Oral arguments are also often held if there is opposition from the state.

Lauren Brenzel is the campaign director of Floridians Protecting Freedom. This coalition was the main force behind the abortion amendment. She noted that the Attorney General’s Office filed official challenges to a number of recent ballot measures, including the recreational marijuana measure, restoring the voting rights of ex-felons and raising the minimum wage.

The Supreme Court approved all of these bills and the voters passed them.

Brenzel explained that the language was designed to be understood by eighth-graders and to use terms that were familiar to people, including those that had definitions in Florida laws.

“These are more political arguments than legal arguments. I think that it shows [the state] has to do mental gymnastics in order to talk about how this language should even be thrown away. Brenzel said that this language was ready for voters.

Florida, even with its 15-week abortion ban, has become a refuge for women who are seeking abortions in other states that have stricter laws. Brenzel says it is vital that the measure to protect the abortion gets to the ballot because a six-week prohibition is on the horizon.

If Florida loses access to health care, the consequences will be devastating. Brenzel stated that 78,000 patients would have nowhere to go. We’re hoping to see the process end with a respect for the constitution of Florida and its constituents.