The Boston Globe

Fla. allows 6-week abortion ban, and a fall vote

Restrictio­n, ballot proposal reflect divisions in state

- By Patricia Mazzei

MIAMI — The Florida Supreme Court overturned decades of legal precedent on Monday in ruling that the state constituti­on’s privacy protection­s do not extend to abortion, effectivel­y allowing Florida to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

But in a separate decision released at the same time, the justices allowed Florida voters to decide this fall whether to expand abortion access. The court ruled 4-3 that a proposed constituti­onal amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion “before viability,” usually around 24 weeks, could go on the November ballot.

The rulings encapsulat­ed, in a single state on a single day, how the country has grappled with the abortion issue since the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that recognized federal abortion rights in 1973.

The conservati­ve-leaning court found 6-1 that a 15-week abortion ban enacted in 2022 was constituti­onal. That ruling — in response to a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and several abortion providers — will allow a six-week ban enacted last year to take effect by May 1.

“Based on our analysis finding no clear right to abortion embodied within the Privacy Clause, Planned Parenthood cannot overcome the presumptio­n of constituti­onality and is unable to demonstrat­e beyond a reasonable doubt that the 15week ban is unconstitu­tional,” Justice Jamie R. Grosshans wrote in the majority opinion.

In paving the way for the sixweek ban, the court cemented the rapid transforma­tion of Florida, once a destinatio­n for women seeking abortions in the American South, into a place with restrictiv­e policies akin to those in surroundin­g states.

But allowing the ballot measure gave supporters of abortion rights a chance to continue their national campaign to preserve access to the procedure by giving voters the opportunit­y to directly weigh in on the issue. Ballot measures in favor of abortion rights have already succeeded in several states, including Ohio and Michigan.

Abortion rights groups in about 10 states are trying to put measures on the ballot to secure access; Florida is the largest of those states.

“This is a historic day in the fight for abortion access in Florida,” said Lauren Brenzel, director for the Yes on 4 campaign that put forth the ballot measure. “No longer will decisions about abortion be left between politician­s disconnect­ed from the realities of everyday Floridians’ lives.”

Historical­ly, many women from Southern states with tighter restrictio­ns on abortion have traveled to Florida for the procedure. They will now have to seek abortions much farther away, perhaps in Virginia or Washington, D.C. Few women realize that they are pregnant at six weeks, and backers of abortion rights say the stricter ban, once effective, will amount to a neartotal prohibitio­n.

In its ruling allowing the sixweek ban to take effect, a majority of the justices argued that past abortion cases had been wrongly decided based on an overly broad interpreta­tion of the state constituti­on’s privacy clause — an argument similar to the one the Supreme Court made in overturnin­g Roe.

Justice Jorge Labarga, the lone dissenter, noted that the ruling would have far-reaching consequenc­es.

“The impact of today’s decision extends far beyond the 15week ban at issue in this case,” he wrote. “By operation of state statute, the majority’s decision will result in even more stringent abortion restrictio­ns in this state.”

The justices narrowly approved the ballot measure, saying it complies with Florida requiremen­ts that it be clear and limited to a single subject. Those who dissented argued in part that the language in the ballot question is too vague and could lead to years of further litigation.

 ?? CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/FILE 2022 ?? Proabortio­n rights activists in Miami rallied after the US Supreme Court struck down the right to abortion.
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/FILE 2022 Proabortio­n rights activists in Miami rallied after the US Supreme Court struck down the right to abortion.

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