The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Feb. 7 both for and against placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would grant a right to abortion through fetal “viability,” and in some cases, through birth.
The amendment’s sponsor, Floridians Protecting Freedom, has already collected enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot in November. But at the request of Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, the court is now set to decide if the amendment’s language is deceptively broad.
“I don’t think the ballot summary adequately discloses that potentiality,” argued Nathan Forrester, Florida’s senior deputy solicitor general, before the court. “Some voters may suss it out. Other voters will not.”
Specifically, the amendment states that “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.”
The ballot summary includes that same text with the added explanation that the amendment “does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.”
However, according to the state, that explanation does not adequately describe to voters the exact terms of what they would be voting for.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, seven states have put abortion-related initiatives on the ballot, with each resulting in a victory for advocates of the procedure. One of the common arguments against those measures was that the language was too vague, leaving too much open to interpretation.
In her initial brief
, Ms. Moody accused Floridians Protecting Freedom of trying to “hoodwink” voters into supporting another deliberately vague amendment that could later be used to expand abortion access even further in the courts.
But during Wednesday’s hearing, Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz brushed off arguments that the amendment’s text attempts to conceal its scope.