Florida on Brink of Major Abortion Decision

Florida’s Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on Monday regarding a constitutional amendment that could see abortion rights put on the ballot in November.

Amendment 4 seeks to ensure abortions remain legal until the fetus is viable, with the state’s Supreme Court needing to approve its language by Monday, April 1.

Abortion is currently legal in Florida up to the 15th week of pregnancy, but Republican Governor Ron DeSantis last year signed a law implementing a ban on abortions after six weeks, with the exception of cases that involve rape and/or incest.

The six-week ban is not yet in effect after reproductive rights activists collected enough petition signatures to enact a citizens’ initiative, one of several ways a constitutional amendment can be considered in Florida. However, the Supreme Court still needs to approve the wording of the measure that voters may decide on later this year.

The ballot summary reads: “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. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.”

Abortion protesters Florida
Protesters demonstrate in support of abortion access in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 13, 2022. The Supreme Court will decide on Amendment 4 on April 1.


Florida lawmakers are split on the amendment. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody previously argued that the word “viability” is ambiguous. Fetal viability is generally defined as the point in pregnancy at which survival is possible should a natural or induced birth occur.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court in November 2023, Moody argued that the amendment wording paves the way for “ticking time bombs that will enable abortion proponents later to argue that the amendment has a much broader meaning than voters would ever have thought.”

She also said leaving the determination of viability to healthcare providers undermines the state’s ability to regulate abortions.

“If ‘health care providers’ can determine for themselves whether an abortion is necessary to the mother’s ‘health’ or whether a baby has reached ‘viability,’ very little, if any, of the power to enact, prosecute, or adjudicate laws restricting abortion will be left to the three branches of government,” the filing reads. “This precipitous shift in lawmaking power should be made explicit to the voters. The ballot summary fails to do so.”

“The proposed amendment is very clear and precise,” Democratic state Representative Anna Eskamani said in November. “The term viability is a medical one, and in the context of abortion has always meant the stage of fetal development when the life of a fetus is sustainable outside the womb through standard medical measures.”

“Opponents of Amendment 4’s ballot placement attempted to distort case law, misapply legal tests, and even asked the Court to invent new standards in a desperate attempt to hide their lack of a legal argument behind hollow political rhetoric,” said Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Yes on 4, the official campaign for the amendment by Floridians Protecting Freedom.

“A plain reading of the amendment language shows that it pertains to only one subject and the summary is clear,” said Courtney Brewer, a legal writing professor at Florida State University who is affiliated with Floridians Protecting Freedom. “This amendment clearly meets the criteria to be placed on the ballot before voters.”

Newsweek reached out to Floridians Protecting Freedom for comment outside of normal working hours via the contact form on its website.

If the amendment makes the ballot it will need at least 60 percent voter approval to take effect.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, many Republican-controlled states have put abortion restrictions into effect, with 14 banning the medical practice at every stage of pregnancy. Most Democratic states have laws or executive orders put in place to protect access. Voters in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont have taken the side of abortion rights supporters on similar ballot measures.