TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — What starts Friday could change abortion access in Florida. The state's Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Florida's 15-week abortion ban violates privacy rights protected in the state constitution.
If the Florida Supreme Court upholds the 15-week abortion ban, which is in effect right now, a six-week ban will take effect 30 days later. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a six-week ban into law this year, but it can't take effect without the state Supreme Court first making a decision on a 15-week ban.
Florida's Constitution guarantees a right to privacy "free from governmental intrusion." Does a 15-week abortion ban go against the constitution? That's what the Florida Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on Friday.
"It is not a private decision," said Andrew Shirvell, founder of Florida Voice for the Unborn, a Tallahassee-based grassroots lobbying group. "Our medical decisions are private," retired Jacksonville physician Dr. Nancy Staats added.
20 years ago, the Florida Supreme Court ruled it was a violation of privacy rights for parents to be notified before a minor has an abortion. Today, the majority of Florida's Supreme Court justices are conservative.
Shirvell, who advocates against abortion, calls it the "number one human rights crisis in the world." He believes in a right to life starting at conception.
"We must do everything, everything possible in our laws and in our culture to protect the most vulnerable," Shirvell said.
Six percent of abortions take place at or after 15 weeks, the Charlotte Lozier Institute reports. Staats says certain problems with fetuses are not detectable before then, and women are forced to carry and deliver babies that won't survive.
"You're forcing them to watch their baby die," Staats said. "I think it's beyond cruel."
Another question is: could we see abortion on the ballot? Floridians Protecting Freedom announced Wednesday they have enough petitions to qualify for Supreme Court review.