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'A historic day': Both sides react to Florida's abortion amendment ruling

 If justices sign off, the proposal will go on the November ballot.
Florida Supreme Court
The Florida Supreme Court issues the long-awaited ruling on the abortion amendment on Monday, April 1, 2024.

The decision comes several months after the state's Attorney General Ashley Moody asked the Florida Supreme Court to strike down the measure.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that an amendment to protect access to abortion can appear on the November ballot. 

The measure would establish a right to abortion up to fetal viability, which most doctors agree is usually around 22 to 25 weeks of pregnancy.

The proposal says, 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.” 

The state Supreme Court ruling came several months after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked the court to strike down the measure, saying its language would confuse voters.

But in its 4-3 opinion, the court wrote that the proposal was “plainly stated in terms that clearly and unambiguously reflect the text of the proposed amendment.”

Lauren Brenzel is director of the 'Yes on 4' campaign, which is named after the abortion ballot amendment. 

"This is a historic day in the fight for abortion access in Florida,” she said. “No longer will decisions about abortion be left between politicians disconnected from the realities of everyday Floridians lives." 

The amendment initiative was launched in May 2023, after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law.

That ban will now go into effect in thirty days after the Court also ruled Monday that Florida's current 15-week abortion ban is constitutional.

To be successful, proponents of the amendment had to collect signatures equal to 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election.

That amounts to 891,523 registered voters which the group exceeded by collecting nearly one million signatures from at least half of the state’s 28 congressional districts.

Brenzel called Monday's ruling a 'pivotal step in restoring reproductive rights in Florida.'

"And when voters head to the polls this November they will send a message to Florida politicians that decisions about whether or not to have an abortion should be between a patient and a provider,” she said. 

Several other supporters of the amendment weighed in on the decision.

“The vast majority of Floridians – Republicans and Democrats alike – do not want the government interfering in our personal medical decisions," said Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida.

Florida Rising, a political organization which works with black and brown communities wrote, “This year, Black women and Latinas, who often bear the brunt of attacks on our freedoms, will lead the way in the fight to end government interference in abortion.”

But several anti-abortion groups decried the court's decision. 

In a press release, Florida Voice for the Unborn wrote that it was "profoundly disappointed in the Florida Supreme Court for deciding to compromise with the abortion industry." 

The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group wrote that, “Not only will this measure bring dangerous late-term abortions back to Florida, but it will allow girls who aren’t old enough to get their ears pierced on their own get an abortion without a parent’s okay.” 

If 60 percent of Floridians vote in favor of Amendment 4, it would undo the state's six-week ban. 

Copyright 2024 WUSF 89.7

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