OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a law signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis limiting abortions to 15 weeks or less while allowing the measure to remain in effect for the time being.
As reported by Fox News, a lawsuit against the measure was filed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, with both arguing that the right to an abortion is protected under the Florida Constitution. But the state’s high court refused to grant their request for a temporary restraining order blocking the state from enforcing the law, which is called the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act, or HB5.
The law restricts abortion after an unborn child has reached 15 weeks of development. The GOP governor has said the law “protects babies in the womb who have beating hearts, who can move, who can taste, who can see, and who can feel pain.”
Opponents, however, call any law limiting the procedure an assault on “dignity and bodily autonomy” as well as “dangerous.”
“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 with the ACLU 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,” White continued. “For almost seven months, women and people in need of essential abortion services have been forced to flee the state in search of the health care they need or face the horror of government-mandated forced pregnancy.
“While today’s order is a step in the right direction, Floridians urgently need relief from Gov. DeSantis’ cruel ban,” she added.
Fox News added:
The lawsuit was previously heard by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper, who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Cooper said the Florida Constitution contains an explicit “right to privacy” that is “much broader in scope” than any privacy right under the United States Constitution. He further ruled that a 15-week cutoff for abortions is not supported by sufficient state interest. The judge said that while the law has an exception for when abortion is needed to save the mother’s life, there are other conditions that “may not be fatal but can have profound and lasting implications for the patient, the family, and the neonate if the pregnancy is carried to term.”
“Patients faced with a diagnosis of a fetal condition also need time to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, based on information from their prenatal care providers and from multiple sources with knowledge about the fetal anomaly at issue, discussion with family and other support systems, and consultation with their clergy, social workers, or other resources,” Cooper wrote in his decision, which also granted plaintiffs an injunction.
Florida appealed the ruling, however, and the state’s high court vacated Cooper’s injunction in a 4-1 decision without explanation, Fox News noted.
The high court has previously upheld the right to an abortion in the state, but DeSantis believes the judges will also uphold HB5.
DeSantis handily beat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist to win reelection in November by nearly 20 points. Rumors say he is gearing up for a 2024 presidential run, and while he has denied as much, should he decide to challenge former President Donald Trump for the nomination, he would be in a good financial position to do so.
Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, he raised a record-breaking $200 million as opposed to his opponent, Crist, who raised around $31 million, Politico reported.
“If you look at where the money is coming from, it’s indicative of Gov. DeSantis being seen by national donors as the de facto frontrunner for president,” Republican lobbyist Slater Bayliss said at the time.