Florida Court Allows 6-Week Abortion Ban, but Voters Will Get to Weigh In

The Florida Supreme Court overturned decades of legal precedent on Monday in ruling that the State Constitution’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion, effectively allowing Florida to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

But in a separate decision released at the same time, the justices allowed Florida voters to decide this fall whether to expand abortion access. The court ruled unanimously that a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion “before viability,” usually around 24 weeks, could go on the November ballot.

The rulings encapsulated, in a single state on a single day, how the country has grappled with the abortion issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that recognized federal abortion rights in 1973.

The conservative-leaning court found that a 15-week abortion ban enacted in 2022 was constitutional. That ruling will allow a six-week ban enacted last year to take effect within 30 days.

In paving the way for the six-week ban, the court cemented the rapid transformation of Florida, once a destination for women seeking abortions in the American South, into a place with restrictive policies akin to those in surrounding states.

But allowing the ballot measure gave supporters of abortion rights a chance to continue their national campaign to preserve access to the procedure by giving voters the opportunity to directly weigh in on the issue. Ballot measures in favor of abortion rights have already succeeded in seven states, including Kansas, Ohio and Michigan.

Historically, many women from Southern states with stricter bans have traveled to Florida to get abortions. They will now have to seek abortions much further away, perhaps in Virginia or Washington, D.C. Few women know that they are pregnant at six weeks, and backers of abortion rights say the stricter ban, once effective, will amount to a near-total prohibition.