By Dave Andrusko
In an order posted Friday, the Florida Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for September 8 to address the constitutionality of the state’s law protecting unborn children after 15 weeks. “If the Supreme Court finds in the 15-week case that the privacy clause [in the state constitution] does not protect abortion rights, it would effectively allow the state to move forward with the six-week limit”–The Heartbeat Act–which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed on April 14, according to the Miami Herald.
The court has allowed the state to enforce the 15-week law pending the outcome of the case. The case is Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida v. Florida.
The protective six-week Heartbeat law was supposed to take effect on June 1. The vast majority of these abortions are performed on healthy babies of healthy mothers who are conceived consensually, and half of these elective abortions take place after 6 weeks—after the baby has a beating heart.
“But first, the state’s top court must decide if the ‘Fetal Protection Act,’ which passed in 2022, violates the right to privacy enshrined in the Florida Constitution,” according to Rachel Tucker.
Seven abortion clinics and physician Shelly Hsiao-Ying Tien filed the lawsuit in June 2022 challenging the constitutionality of the 15-week abortion law. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed with the plaintiffs that the law violated the state Constitution and issued a temporary injunction.
But a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the injunction, ruling that the plaintiffs could not show “irreparable harm” from the 15-week limit. The appeals court’s decision allowed the 15-week limit to take effect, and the plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the injunction.
The Supreme Court in January agreed to take up the case but did not set a date for arguments until Friday. With the case pending, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring approved the six-week abortion limit.
In a March 29 brief, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office said that past rulings were “clearly erroneous” and “that decisions about abortion restrictions should be left to the Legislature.” The brief said
“Rather than allow the legislative process to unfold in response to new scientific and medical developments, this [Supreme] Court’s [past] abortion cases have disabled the state from preventing serious harm to women and children and stifled democratic resolution of profoundly important questions touching on the treatment of unborn life, when an unborn child is capable of consciousness and pain, and what medical procedures affecting the procreative process are safe and appropriate to allow.”
In court pleading, the state of Florida cited Dobbs, where the the U.S. Supreme Court’s overruled Roe v. Wade.
“That sea-change in federal law plainly warrants reconsideration of the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of Florida’s own constitutional right to privacy, and there will be great uncertainty in Florida until it does so.”