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Florida Supreme Court is set to consider abortion rights ballot language

 If justices sign off, the proposal will go on the November ballot.
Florida Supreme Court
If justices sign off on the language of the ballot summary, the proposal will go on the November ballot.

Justices will determine whether voters will get the opportunity to decide constitutional limits on abortion in the state.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on whether it should allow an abortion rights constitutional amendment on the November ballot. 

The groups behind the initiative have collected the necessary signatures — but the state will argue that the measure's language could confuse voters. 

The justices are not supposed to consider the merits of the proposed amendment, only whether the ballot language is clear and won’t confuse voters.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says the amendment should be disqualified because it uses the word "viability” — which she calls "ambiguous."

But advocates of the proposal say the term has been widely accepted as meaning "the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb," which is between 23 and 24 weeks.

Debbie DeLand is the president of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women, one of the groups behind the amendment.

"I think you'll see in our oral arguments that we are really strong on definitions of viability," she said. "We're looking for a favorable decision because our language was so thoroughly reviewed."

Lauren Brenzel, of Floridians Protecting Freedom, calls Moody's argument "disingenuous."

"We feel really strongly that Florida voters deserve the chance to vote on this initiative, " she said. "AG Moody's arguments are hollow and they're not based on constitutional arguments, they're based on making a political statement."

The text of the ballot summary reads: “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. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.”

If the court rules in favor of allowing the amendment on the ballot, 60% of voters would have to approve it to add it to the state constitution. 

Copyright 2024 WUSF 89.7

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.