TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sponsors of a proposed amendment that would enshrine the right to abortion in Florida’s Constitution pushed the court to allow the measure to appear on the 2024 ballot.
Supporters filed briefs in Florida’s highest court on Monday in response to Attorney General Ashley Moody and other groups that oppose the citizen initiative. 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.”
Floridians Protecting Freedom is the main sponsor of “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion,” which has just under half a million verified signatures, as of Monday. It needs a total of 891,523 to appear on the ballot.
Moody has described herself as “unabashedly” pro-life and called the initiative “misleading,” stating it was “one of the worst I have seen.” In a brief filed against the measure last month, Moody took issue with the measure’s use of the word “viability” and claimed it will confuse voters.
In Monday’s filing, Floridians Protecting Freedom 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,” Floridians Protecting Freedom wrote. “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.
“The Opponents catastrophize about the amendment’s application,” Floridians Protecting Freedom wrote. “These are fundamentally political arguments about the Proposed Amendment’s merits that have no bearing on the task before the Court.”
Four support briefs were also submitted to the Florida Supreme Court by Florida doctors, former Florida Republican elected officials, constitutional law scholars and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In their briefs, the doctors also challenged Moody’s “viability” concerns, dispelling the idea that it could create confusion for voters. The former Republican officials argued Floridians should have the opportunity to vote on the amendment.
“This constitutional amendment simply ensures that decisions about pregnancy are between patients and their doctors, not politicians,” Hélène Barthelémy, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida, wrote in a statement. “Floridians value their freedom from government interference when it comes to accessing essential reproductive health care, and we look forward to giving them a chance to reclaim that freedom when they go to the polls in 2024.”
Is abortion legal in Florida? Here’s where the state stands
Abortion is fresh on the minds of Florida’s Supreme Court justices, who heard oral arguments in a case challenging Florida’s 15-week abortion ban in September. Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida v. Florida is blocking a more restrictive abortion law from being implemented while it is tied up in the courts.
The ballot measure faces a massive hurdle with Florida’s overwhelmingly conservative supreme court. Pro-choice advocates fear the court will be favorable towards anti-abortion arguments, in part, due to Gov. Ron DeSantis appointing five of the seven justices, including those with strong ties to the pro-life movement and legislative advocacy.
Attorney General Ashley Moody submitted the initiative to the Florida Supreme Court in May. When justices heard oral arguments in the marijuana case last week, they appeared to push back on some of Moody’s claims.