Florida’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, has requested that the state Supreme Court prevent a proposed abortion rights amendment from appearing on the ballot. Moody argues that supporters of the amendment are engaged in a “war” to protect the procedure and will ultimately seek to expand those rights in the future. However, proponents of the amendment believe that Moody’s arguments are politically motivated and lack legal merit, given the clear and precise language of the proposed measure.
The group Floridians Protecting Freedom has already gathered nearly 500,000 signatures from voters, out of the required 891,523, in order to place the proposal on the 2024 ballot. If the measure goes before voters, the state Supreme Court will be responsible for ensuring that the ballot language is not misleading and pertains to a single subject.
The proposed amendment aims to allow abortions to remain legal until the fetus is viable. However, Moody contends that there are varying interpretations of what viability means among abortion rights proponents and opponents. She also highlights the failure to define terms such as “health” and “health care provider,” which she believes could deceive voters and lead to future legal complications.
Moody argues in a 50-page brief that the ballot summary is part of a strategy to lay “ticking time bombs” that would enable abortion proponents to argue for a broader interpretation of the amendment. While some court decisions have defined viability as the ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb, Moody suggests that others may interpret it in a more traditional clinical sense, referring to a pregnancy that would result in the live birth of a child if not for an abortion or other misfortune.
Proponents of the amendment dispute Moody’s claims. Democratic state Representative Anna Eskamani asserts that the proposed amendment is clear and precise, with the term viability having a medical definition. She argues that viability in the context of abortion has always referred to the stage of fetal development when the life of a fetus can be sustained outside the womb through standard medical measures.
Moody also raises concerns about the language in the proposed amendment that allows for abortions after the point of viability to protect the health of the mother. She argues that the amendment does not sufficiently differentiate between physical and mental health. Additionally, she suggests that voters may assume a health care provider is a doctor, even though the amendment does not explicitly state so.
Florida has been under Republican control since 1999, with Republicans dominating state politics and holding the governor’s office and both branches of the Legislature. During this time, the state has implemented various restrictions on abortion rights, including a waiting period, parental notification for minors seeking abortion, and mandatory ultrasounds. A law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis last year, which bans abortion after 15 weeks, is currently being challenged in court.
If the courts uphold the law, a bill signed by DeSantis this year will further restrict abortion by banning it after six weeks, which is often before many women even realize they are pregnant. DeSantis, who is running for president, has expressed support for a federal abortion ban after 15 weeks. If the proposed amendment makes it onto the ballot, it will require at least 60% voter approval in order to take effect.