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Reaction to Supreme Court rulings fall along political divide

By CJ HADDAD - | Apr 4, 2024

The Florida Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings related to abortion on Monday, one upholding the state’s legislative limits on abortions, the other allowing a constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights to be placed on the November ballot.

Finding that the state’s existing constitutional privacy protections do not apply, the 6-1 ruling that upheld the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, also means the six-week ban passed by the state Legislature this year will take effect May 1.

In a divided 4-3 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court allowed Amendment 4, Right to Abortion Initiative, to be placed in the ballot in November. It states that “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.”

If approved by 60 percent of state voters, the amendment would not change existing provisions that require either parental consent or a judicial waiver for minors.

The petition to get the amendment, entitled “Amendment to limit Government Interference With Abortion,” was signed by more than 1.5 million Florida voters.

Reaction to the abortion ban — immediate for the 15 weeks with the six-week ban to follow — and the placement of the constitution amendment which could overturn it — was swift and fell sharply along the abortion political divide.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the national ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other entities had filed the lawsuit against the 15-week ban which the Supreme Court has upheld.

In response the rulings, Sara Latshaw, deputy political director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement: “Today’s ruling is a triumph for democracy in Florida, affirming the power of our ballot initiative process to safeguard our rights when politicians falter. In the face of a six-week abortion ban, Floridians now have the chance to assert their will at the ballot box, shaping a Florida that is free from government interference in abortion.”

The six-week ban is coming under scrutiny for a myriad of reasons, the top being many women do not even know they are pregnant at that stage, and that if approved, women would have very limited, if not completely eliminated resources in the Southeastern U.S.

In a statement Monday, Dr. Robyn Schickler, CMO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida said: “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.”

This measure comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June of ’22.

Some organizations feel Amendment 4 is “too extreme” for Floridians.

Priests for Life, based in Titusville, Florida, state the measure does not “reflect the will of the people.”

Director Frank Pavone in a statement said, “As we have already been doing, so we will continue to do, which is point out to Floridians that this ballot measure is far too extreme and does not reflect the will of residents in a state that has already approved two laws protecting babies from abortion. A state that endorses a Heartbeat bill does not want taxpayer-funded abortion throughout pregnancy. That’s the message we will continue to spread.”

The rulings also immediately ratcheted up the political narrative for the state and federal races coming up in November.

In response to the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison released the following statement:

“Because of Donald Trump, millions of women in Florida and across the South will have their reproductive freedom ripped away by one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country. Trump has already proudly claimed credit for making Florida’s dangerous and unpopular abortion ban possible after he paved the way for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is the extreme, anti-freedom agenda Trump wants to force on the entire country, and his MAGA allies are already laying the groundwork for a national abortion ban. But in election after election, the American people have proven that they will not stand for Trump and MAGA Republicans’ assaults on their right to choose. The stakes couldn’t be higher this November, and voters nationwide will choose to stand with President Biden and Vice President Harris once again to safeguard our freedoms.”