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How the Florida Supreme Court's opinions on abortion will impact health care and politics

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Crowd of people sit on staircase outside at an abortion rally. Some hold signs in support of abortion rights.
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
Abortion rights advocates have rallied in Florida for the past couple years as the state has increasingly tried to restrict access to the procedure.

This November, Floridians get to vote on abortion rights and recreational marijuana.

The Florida Supreme Court released opinions on two proposed constitutional amendments Monday afternoon. One would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, and the other would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

At the same time, the court released a ruling on a challenge to Florida’s 15-week abortion ban. The court upheld the 15-week ban, which in turn means a more restrictive six-week ban will soon take effect.

Stetson University College of Law professor Louis Virelli spoke to Florida Matters shortly after the opinions were published.

"It is controversial, but it's not complicated," said Virelli of the proposed amendment on abortion.

"Do the voters of Florida want to protect abortion, pre-viability, the way that Roe v. Wade did for the previous 50 years?"

The rulings from the Supreme Court garnered mixed reactions from supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

"This is a historic day in the fight for abortion access in Florida," said Floridians Protecting Freedom Campaign Director Lauren Brenzel.

"No longer will decisions about abortion be left to politicians disconnected from the realities of Floridians' everyday lives. No longer will health care be treated as a wedge issue to divide us.” 

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."

To discuss the impact of these court opinions on health care in the Sunshine State and what they could mean for the elections in November, Florida Matters spoke with WUSF reporter and host Cathy Carter, WUSF health care reporter Stephanie Colombini and political analyst and retired political science professor Susan MacManus.

"While the outcome was uncertain, I will say that leaders of the coalition have always expressed a great deal of confidence that it would get on the ballot," said Carter.

"I spoke with Amy Weintraub of the advocacy group Progress Florida last summer when I was reporting on the petition drive, and she told me that they had spent considerable time with lawyers to vet the language of what is now Amendment Four."

"We've seen a huge increase in out-of-state patients coming to Florida for abortion since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade," said Colombini.

"So it has been a huge resource for people in these neighboring states. And now with the six-week ban going into effect here, that's wiping out abortion access in the Southeast."

A woman wearing a bright green blazer stands in front of a house with white wood siding
Daylina Miller
Dr. Susan MacManus

MacManus said while Democrats may be "euphoric" about the amendment getting on the ballot, it remains to be seen what impact it will have on turnout.

"Certainly Democrats are putting a lot of their eggs in this basket of reproductive rights. They think it can really ramp up turnout of some groups that right now they're not doing very well among, particularly young voters, or Black voters, for example, women voters."

"The real kicker in all of this is what we know in Florida, it's the independent voters that are going to make the difference," she added.

As for the recreational marijuana amendment, MacManus said she doesn't expect it to have as big an impact in November.

"It's kind of a given, I think. We've already had medicinal marijuana. I mean, if you put the two together, and you have some groups on campuses that are already coming up with clever ideas of how to tie the two together, but it's going to be the abortion issue, that's going to be the bigger driver," said MacManus.

"It's going to be the battle of the extremes. It's going to be the groups that have the best way over turnout and getting people to vote. I don't think it's going to affect the presidential race as much as it's going to affect some of the down-ballot races ironically."

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
As the executive producer of WUSF's Florida Matters, I aim to create a show and podcast that makes all Floridians feel seen and heard. That's also my assignment as a producer for The Florida Roundup. In any role, my goal is always to amplify the voices often overlooked.