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Florida Supreme Court is set to consider abortion rights ballot language

Florida Supreme Court building. White stone structure with pillars and a dome.
Florida Supreme Court
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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 will allow an abortion rights 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. 

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

But advocates 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 abortion amendment 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.”

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

If the court rules in favor of allowing the amendment on the ballot, 60% of voters would have to approve the measure in November for it to be added to the Florida state constitution. 

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.