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Florida Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Arguments in Pivotal Abortion Case

The court’s decision will either prohibit women from getting abortions later than six weeks into a pregnancy or allow continued access for over 97 percent of abortions.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The future of abortion access in Florida hinges on the opinions of the state’s seven supreme court justices, and they will be making their decision soon.

On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida v. State of Florida. The case concerns the legality of Florida’s recently passed abortion restrictions that prohibit women from getting abortions after the fetus has reached a certain point in development.

Five of the seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court were appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis and the other two were appointed by former Governor Charlie Crist, who was a Republican when he appointed the justices.


Currently, Florida prohibits pregnant women from receiving clinical abortions after a fetus has reached 15 weeks of gestation. Clinical abortions after 15 weeks are permissible if doctors believe that continuing the pregnancy could result in death or serious injury for the mother. These prohibitions were passed during the 2022 Legislative Session and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. Prior to that, clinical abortions were legal up to 24 weeks.

During the 2023 Legislative Session in May, the state increased its prohibition on clinical abortions to protect a fetus that has reached six weeks of gestation – unless if the fetus was conceived in rape or incest, in which abortions can be performed up to 15 weeks.

State regulations concerning abortion apply to physicians and others performing abortions on a pregnant woman – but women themselves have historically been exempt from prosecution in cases of self-administered abortions. In 1997, the Florida Supreme Court overturned charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter for a woman who terminated her pregnancy by shooting herself in the abdomen during her third trimester.

Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit against the state on August 15, 2022, in response to the 15-week restrictions, but the court’s ruling on the issue will also affirm or nullify the legality of the six-week abortion restrictions DeSantis signed in April.

While Florida has become a more conservative state in recent years, stronger abortion restrictions in neighboring states have led women to travel to Florida in order to obtain an abortion. Approximately 94 percent of all abortions take place prior to the state’s 15-week cutoff and Florida is among the top five states with the highest abortion rates in America, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

READ MORE: Pro-Life Leader Calls Florida an “Abortion Tourist State”


In order for the new laws to be upheld, the court will have to overturn its previous 1989 ruling that the Privacy Clause in the Florida Constitution includes the right to abortion. The clause was approved by over 60 percent of Florida voters as an amendment in 1980.

“Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into his private life except as otherwise provided herein,” Article 1 Section 23 of the Florida Constitution states. “This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.”

It is the court’s interpretation of these two short sentences that will determine whether or not Florida joins other red states in restricting access to most clinical abortions or remains an destination for pregnant women seeking abortions in the Southeast.

Attorneys representing Planned Parenthood argue: “There is no basis to find the Privacy Clause incorporates decisional privacy but somehow excludes abortion, an established part of privacy rights in 1980, and a profoundly personal decision.”

“What the words convey is what ‘the voters would have understood’ them to mean,” Florida’s attorneys argue in their brief. “[The clause] does not enshrine a right to abortion. Instead, voters understood it to protect informational privacy, like the disclosure of private facts.”

In its defense of the new abortion laws, the state quotes former Florida House Speaker Jon Mills – the amendment’s sponsor in 1980 – who assured voters his “goal” was to ensure “that government collects no more information than it absolutely requires to serve the people.”

“The bigger government gets, the more it tends to collect information on people,” Mills said at the time.


The case has already begun to garner national interest and is likely to draw activists on both sides of the abortion issue to the courtroom in Tallahassee.

Preparatory to Friday’s oral arguments in the case, the court hasn’t taken any extra security precautions. Florida Supreme Court spokesman Paul Flemming told the Florida Phoenix that he expects “a full courtroom,” but said he expects normal operations to suffice.

“I do not think it is accurate to say the Florida Supreme Court has ramped up security in preparation for oral argument,” he said. “But it is fair to say staff and the Marshal’s Office are focused on what will be a large crowd for a high-interest case and providing a smooth public experience of access to the Supreme Court’s work.”

“The court will have a full complement of staff on hand and ready to help people through security,” Flemming added. “We control court property – it’s public and people are welcome as long as they allow the regular business of the Supreme Court to go on.”