A group of abortion providers challenged the law after it passed in 2022, arguing it violates the state’s constitutional right to privacy, which the Florida Supreme Court in 1989 said provides a fundamental right to an abortion.
The state is arguing the nearly 35-year-old ruling was wrong and are banking on a much more conservative court to agree. Five of the seven justices were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is running for president.
In a court filing, the state said the right to privacy “has nothing to do with abortion” and doesn’t extend to a person’s “decisional autonomy.”
Instead, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s (R) office said the law protects “informational privacy, like the disclosure of private facts.”
Abortion rights advocates say the outcome will determine not only the future of abortion in Florida but also across much of the South.
If the justices uphold the existing law and say there is no right to an abortion, the decision would automatically trigger an even stricter law that will ban abortions after six weeks. If that happens, Virginia would be the only state in the South to allow abortion beyond the first trimester.
DeSantis signed the six-week ban into law in April, and it is set to take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues a decision.
DeSantis, like many of the other GOP presidential candidates, has not made abortion a centerpiece of his campaign. He has dodged questions about whether he would implement a six-week ban nationally, but has defended the state law.
Abortion rights activists said they are hoping the conservative court rules in their favor, but they’re not optimistic.
“Basically, we’re in a situation where the governor and elected officials are putting politics over the health and safety of pregnant Floridians,” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU of Florida, which is representing the abortion clinics.
“Decades of Florida state precedent have all held that the government should not be interfering in personal private medical decisions, including the decisions of whether and when to have a child. And we hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the will of the people,” Gross said.