TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision Monday, denied a request to temporarily halt the 15-week abortion ban, but agreed to bring up the challenge.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and some abortion providers challenged the law by the Florida Legislature in seeking an injunction. They argued the right to an abortion is protected by the Florida Constitution.
The law passed in March 2022 and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April 2022 reduces legal abortion from 24 weeks to 14 weeks with no exception for rape or incest.
“While we are pleased that the court didn’t shut its doors completely, we are dismayed that it has allowed this dangerous ban to remain in effect and to harm real people each and every day until this case is finally decided,” said Whitney White, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We hope that the court acts quickly and follows 40 years of precedent and the will of the people to stop this unconstitutional 15-week abortion ban, which has caused chaos and devastation in the state since going into effect in July.”
The clinics and physician Shelly Hsiao-Ying Tien filed the lawsuit June 1, 2022.
On July 5, 2022, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper issued the temporary injunction, saying the new law would be blocked because of the 1989 Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s right to privacy protect an abortion.
The state immediately appealed and the 1st District Court of Appeal blocked Cooper’s ruling in August 2022 — keeping the 15-week limit in effect.
In September, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office urged the Supreme Court to reject the motion for a stay.
“Florida’s Privacy Clause creates a right ‘to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life,’” lawyers in Moody’s office wrote in one filing. “That language is naturally read to limit governmental snooping and information-gathering — but not to establish a liberty to destroy unborn (or any other) life.”
The Florida Supreme Court had previously upheld the right to abortion in the state in citing the privacy clause in the state constitution that extends those rights to abortion.
But DeSantis has appointed more conservative justices.
Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans were in the majority.
Justice Jorge Labarga wrote a dissent: "In view of this (Supreme) Court’s longstanding precedent, I conclude that the petitioners have met the exacting burden required for this Court to stay the First District Court of Appeal’s decision pending review in this Court."
Chief Justice Carlos Muniz and Justice Renatha Francis did not take part.
Legislators plan to take up legislation during the 2022 legislative session that further restricts access to an abortion.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has suggested the state move to a 12-week ban with exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
About 2% of the nearly 72,000 abortions reported in Florida in 2019 were performed 14 weeks and later a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
On Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in Tallahassee to support abortion rights on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year with decisions up to states.