TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In a 6-3 vote, the United States Supreme Court overturned the abortion protections preserved by the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, putting the ability to regulate, prohibit, or allow abortions in the direct control of individual states. As it stands, Florida’s laws still provide for legal abortion, even with new restrictions put in place in 2022.
The case in question which gave SCOTUS the opportunity to overturn or preserve the decision in Roe was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which contested the abortion law passed in Mississippi, restricting abortion rights for the state.
In the hands of the states, Florida laws both established and currently contested mean that the right to abortion, at least for now, is preserved for mothers in the state to a certain point.
The Florida Legislature’s passage of House Bill 5 in 2022 preserved the right of abortion but limited the amount of time mothers could seek one. Rather than the previous “viability” standard allowed by previous case precedent, the amount of time an abortion could be had by mothers in Florida was reduced to 15 weeks. That law will take effect July 1.
Additionally, recent rulings by the Florida Supreme Court said that mothers seeking an abortion must receive counseling at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion, and that they must wait until that counseling has been provided before having the procedure. Despite restrictions that were in place or had been made legal, the state of Florida still saw tens of thousands of abortions performed, legally, in 2022.
Alito’s opinion makes it clear that the majority of the court views abortion rights as a state issue, not a federal one. The ruling states that the U.S. Constitution does not specifically provide protections for abortion rights in the country, including via privacy rights created by the 14th Amendment.
In the draft, Alito wrote that “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
With the SCOTUS ruling today, Florida’s laws are, for now, unaffected. As the state legislature has already provided Florida-specific restrictions to abortion, the removal of federal protections does not change the provisions of the state’s Constitution or laws.
Following the heightened political moment, and the new laws, some groups have sued the state over the abortion law. Those cases are still pending in court. The American Civil Liberties Union and a Jewish congregation in Palm Beach County are suing the state independently.
However, moving forward, it is unclear if the state legislature would enhance restrictions, or leave them as they are following the 2022 session. As it stands, Florida’s Constitution preserves the right of abortion to 15 weeks, though exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking who become pregnant were not preserved in the latest legislation.
Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch did not write adjoining concurrent opinions, though the other two more conservative leaning members of the court signed onto Alito’s opinion for the Court.
The ruling of the Fifth Circuit was reversed, putting abortion rights directly in the hands of state legislatures across the U.S.
The majority opinion by Alito, and the concurring opinions written by Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Roberts, argued that as far back as 1973, the nation’s highest court had decided incorrectly.
“Abortion is a profoundly difficult and contentious issue because it presents an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a pregnant woman who seeks an abortion and the interests in protecting fetal life,” Kavanaugh wrote. In his concurrence, he said the issue was in contending whether or not the life of a fetus is a human life.
Referring to differences of opinion across the American religious and political spectrum, Kavanaugh wrote “The Constitution is neutral and leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress—like the numerous other difficult questions of American social and economic policy that the Constitution does not address.”
The opinion overturning Roe v. Wade authored was by Justice Samuel Alito remained, with concurring opinions written by Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Writing of the dissenting opinion by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan said the decisions of 1973, and later 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that “The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be.”
The dissenting opinion continued that “respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions.” Now that the majority of the court has overturned those protections at a federal level, the court’s liberal justices expressed concern that the balance struck by the court in previous decisions had been “discarded.”
Going forward, the official opinion of SCOTUS holds that as far as the federal government will be concerned legally, the right of a woman to choose whether or not to preserve a pregnancy is removed from the “moment of fertilization.” The court’s liberal justices say that the ruling makes it so “a woman has no rights to speak of,” regarding pregnancy.