TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody doubled down on her arguments against a proposed abortion rights amendment that is currently under review by the state supreme court.
In her quest to keep the amendment off the 2024 ballot, Moody filed a reply brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday, reiterating her concerns with aspects of the initiative’s ballot summary. The measure must clear the judicial review process before Floridians can weigh in at the polls.
The ballot measure’s summary reads, in part, “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.”
Moody claims the summary is misleading and said the measure’s sponsors hope the amendment “would produce the near-equivalent of abortion on demand in the State of Florida.” She alleged that since the summary states, “[n]o law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion,” it is misleading, because it does not mention a federal statute that “restricts the performance of partial-birth abortions to life-threatening circumstances.”
“One additional word … would have done the trick: ‘No state law shall…’,” Moody wrote in the brief. “That single word also would have addressed the possibility that Congress would in the future enact further preemptive legislation restricting the practice of abortion.”
Moody also took issue with what she called “the amendment’s central operative terms”: “viability,” “health,” and “healthcare provider.” She said the ballot summary “fails to narrow the wide range of meaning that could attach to” those terms.
The attorney general alleged the use of the term “healthcare provider” would “effectuate a dramatic shift in lawmaking power—from the government to” physicians, whom she calls “the private commercial interest that stands to profit from the very practice whose legality that interest gets to determine.”
Floridians Protecting Freedom is the main sponsor of “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion,” which had just under half a million verified signatures, as of Thursday. It needs a total of 891,523 to appear on the ballot.
As of this report, Floridians Protecting Freedom has not responded to Moody’s reply brief.
In Monday’s filing, the measure’s sponsors slammed Moody’s arguments as politically motivated and said Florida voters understand the “common-sense” definition of terms like “viability.”
“For nearly fifty years—until last year—government interference with abortion before viability was limited,” attorneys representing Floridians Protecting Freedom wrote in a brief. “Voters can be trusted to know what it would mean to live in a world limiting government interference with abortion before viability.”
The measure’s supporters also believe those who oppose it are making political arguments, rather than on a strictly-legal basis. Four support briefs were also submitted to the Florida Supreme Court on Monday by Florida doctors, former Florida Republican elected officials, constitutional law scholars and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In an Oct. 6 op-ed, published shortly before Moody filed her initial brief, she described herself as “unabashedly” pro-life. She has requested oral arguments in the case, according to court documents filed on Monday.