The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Friday in a case that could play a major role in the future of abortion rights in the state.
The six-week abortion ban passed this year depends on whether the 15-week ban is upheld in court. We explain Florida’s current abortion laws and the Supreme Court debates.
Is abortion legal in Florida?
Yes. However, abortions are prohibited after the 15th week of pregnancy and the sixth day of pregnancy.
If you are more than 15 weeks and six days pregnant, there are exceptions that allow you to have an abortion, including:
- To save the pregnant person’s life
- To avoid serious risks to the physical health of the pregnant person
- If the fetus is not expected to survive the pregnancy
Anyone under 18 must obtain permission from a parent or guardian or a court order to have an abortion.
There is also a 24-hour waiting period, meaning a pregnant person must visit their abortion provider for an in-person consultation and then wait 24 hours before returning for an abortion. This can be dispensed with if your health is at risk.
The 15 week limit is listed below HB 5or the Fetal and Infant Mortality Reduction Bill. The bill also redefines the term “pregnancy” to measure gestational age as the period beginning on the first day of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.
The law came into force on July 1, 2022.
But this past legislative session, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law.
Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is set to be heard in the state’s highest court, and its ruling is expected to play an important role in the future of abortion rights. NBC6’s Steve Litz reports
What does Florida’s six-week abortion ban entail?
This abortion ban, see below SB300 (the Pregnancy and Parenthood Assistance Act) would ban all abortions after six weeks.
There are limited exceptions including:
- If the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or human trafficking. If there is evidence of rape or incest, the pregnant person can have an abortion up to the 15th week of pregnancy. In these cases, pregnant women would be required to provide documentation such as a medical record, a restraining order or a police report.
- If a fatal fetal anomaly is detected, abortion is possible up to the third trimester of pregnancy.
Even with its exceptions, the bill would be the strictest abortion ban the state has enacted in recent memory. Critics of the bill say many people don’t realize they are pregnant until they are six weeks old and would have little time for treatment because of the state’s 24-hour, two-trip rule.
However, this new bill is on hold.
Why is the 6-week abortion ban not yet in effect?
The six-week ban will only go into effect if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in ongoing litigation before the state Supreme Court. Judges will hold a hearing on the 15-week ban on Friday, September 8.
What will be discussed in this hearing?
The constitutional challenge to the 15-week limit, filed by seven abortion clinics and one doctor, centers on whether the limit violates a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution that has been used to protect abortion rights for more than three years in the state contributes decades.
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1980 establishing the state’s right to privacy. A 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling set an initial precedent for the Privacy Clause to protect abortion rights, and subsequent decisions followed that precedent.
The decision, known as “In re: TW,” was at the center of an abortion rights dispute in Florida and became a target for abortion opponents.
As part of the case’s hearing Friday, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office is demanding that the Supreme Court move away from the 1989 ruling and leave abortion decisions to the legislature.
But lawyers for the abortion clinics and a doctor who challenged the 15-week limit argued that the Supreme Court should uphold the Privacy Clause’s long-standing interpretation.
What happens after that?
If the Supreme Court finds in the 15-week case that the Privacy Clause does not protect abortion rights, it would actually allow the state to move forward with the six-week limit. The six-week ban would take effect 30 days after the court decision.
Meanwhile, a coalition of groups launched a campaign in May to try to pass a constitutional amendment in 2024 to ensure abortion rights. The proposal was pushed forward by the political committee Floridians protect freedomwould aim to guarantee the right to abortion until the fetus is viable, generally interpreted as around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
In early September, the petition appeared to have enough signatures to trigger a Supreme Court review. If the justices approve the language, Floridians Protecting Freedom would need to submit at least 891,523 valid petition signatures statewide to get on the November 2024 ballot.