The fate of abortion rights in Florida hangs in the balance Friday morning when the state Supreme Court is expected to accept a challenge to a law that bans the procedure in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a ban signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis come into effect.
The seven justices — including five conservatives appointed by DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate — will hear oral arguments in Tallahassee in the lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
They claim that the Privacy Clause of the Florida Constitution has expressly protected the right to abortion in the state for more than 40 years.
“Plain text and historical context leave no doubt that Florida’s Privacy Clause protects against government interference in all aspects of a person’s private life, including decisions about pregnancy,” the plaintiffs say in court papers.
Florida officials claim the Supreme Court has mistakenly concluded in the past that the Privacy Clause covers abortion rights when it was actually intended more as a protection for “information privacy, such as the disclosure of private facts.”
The data protection clause does not extend “beyond information protection and personal choices that do not cause harm to others, to the right to destroy unborn life,” the officials claim.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking enforcement of the 15-week abortion ban, known as HB5, which carries a possible prison sentence of up to five years and $5,000 in fines for violations, until the end of the trial legal proceedings remain in force.
The six-week ban that DeSantis signed earlier this year would take effect 30 days after a Supreme Court decision upholding the current ban.
The Privacy Clause was added to the Florida Constitution through a voter referendum in 1980 and was later upheld by the state Supreme Court to include abortion rights. Voters in 2012 rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have reversed those decisions.
Last year’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, known as Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to set their own abortion rights policies, does not undermine privacy in Florida, the plaintiffs contend.
“To the contrary, the Dobbs opinion expressly recognized that states remain free to protect abortion under state law,” court papers say.
Florida’s position is supported by a variety of anti-abortion groups and at least 19 Republican-led states that have filed “friends of the court” briefs, some of which call for state legislatures, rather than courts, to decide the issue should.
“It imposes on the people a regime they never accepted, puts courts at the center of a political and moral question they can never resolve, and undermines our democratic tradition,” the states said in the statement.
The challengers also have a number of groups filing briefs on their behalf, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association and Floridians for Reproductive Freedom.
The text of Florida’s Privacy Clause reads: “Every natural person has the right to be peaceful and free from government interference in his private life, except as otherwise provided herein.” This section shall not be construed to affect the right provided by law restricts public access to public records and meetings.”
The 15-week ban before the court on Friday includes exceptions that allow an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent serious physical harm, as well as in cases where a fetus suffers from a terminal illness “associated with a “Life outside the womb is incompatible”.
The six-week ban measure was sponsored in the state legislature by Republican Rep. Jennifer Canady, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady. He has made no move to refuse based on the relationship and no requests for refusal have been made.
As a congressman in the 1990s, Charles Canady sponsored bills to ban so-called “partial-birth abortion.”
A Leon County judge agreed earlier this year that the 15-week ban violates the Florida Constitution and blocked its enforcement with a preliminary injunction. An appeals court lifted the injunction and sent the case to the state Supreme Court.
Several groups are also collecting petition signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot to guarantee abortion rights in Florida up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, generally when a fetus is considered viable.
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https://wsvn.com/news/local/florida/florida-abortion-rights-at-stake-as-state-supreme-court-takes-up-challenge-to-gop-led-restrictions/ Abortion rights in Florida are at stake as the state’s Supreme Court challenges Republican-led restrictions – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports