Florida Supreme Court Upholds 15-Week Abortion Ban, Setting Stage for More Restrictive Six-Week Ban

Miami, Florida – The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks, paving the way for an even more restrictive ban after just six weeks of pregnancy. This ruling, which was passed with a 6-1 vote, allows the six-week ban that was passed last year to take effect within 30 days, significantly reducing access to abortion services in Florida.

In 2022, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law banning abortions in the state after 15 weeks, which was subsequently signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. The law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks and six days of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases where the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a fatal abnormality in the fetus. This law, known as HB 5, also redefines the term “gestation” to measure gestational age from the first day of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.

Prior to this law, Florida allowed abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Violators of the ban could face up to five years in prison, while physicians and other medical professionals who violate the law could lose their licenses and face fines of $10,000 for each violation.

Opponents of the law, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the state’s constitution explicitly protects the right to abortion and that the privacy clause in the Florida Constitution should remain in force. However, lawyers for the state argued that the privacy clause was primarily meant to cover “informational privacy” and not abortion.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, many Republican-controlled states, including Florida, adopted bans or restrictions on abortions. The Florida legislature passed a six-week ban under SB 300, known as the “Pregnancy and Parenting Support Bill.” This ban was written to take effect one month after the 2022 law was upheld.

The six-week ban includes exceptions for cases involving rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities, as well as to save the life of the woman. However, opponents argue that by the time a woman discovers she is pregnant, it may be too late to get an abortion or there may not be enough time to arrange one.

In a separate ruling, the Florida Supreme Court allowed a ballot measure to proceed that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution. The proposed amendment states that no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health. It also includes the existing requirement for parental notification for minors seeking abortion. If approved by voters in the November election, this amendment would override the six-week ban.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the state’s abortion bans has heightened the ongoing debate over reproductive rights in the state. Proponents of these bans argue that they align with the beliefs of many Floridians, while opponents argue that they infringe on a woman’s right to choose. As the legal battle continues, the future of abortion access in Florida remains uncertain.