Florida Supreme Court rules abortion rights will appear on Florida’s ballot

abortion (Large)
Floridians Protecting Freedom gathered petitions to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Abortion rights will be on the Florida ballot in November.

The Florida Supreme Court has approved ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment. The measure will appear as Amendment 4 on the ballot.

Of note, the court on the same day it approved the ballot language also upheld a state law barring most abortions 15 weeks into pregnancy, and then also triggered a new state law that, beginning in 30 days, will bar most abortions six weeks into a term.

“We conclude that the proposed amendment before us embraces but one subject—limiting government interference with abortion—and matter directly connected therewith,” reads a majority opinion.

But the matter closely divided the court, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a majority of members. Ultimately, four justices supported the majority opinion, and three others dissented.

Floridians Protecting Freedom, the group behind the citizen petition effort, in January surpassed the threshold for valid signatures to qualify the measure for the 2024 ballot.

As written, the amendment would prohibit any law limiting the ability to obtain an abortion before fetal viability — generally between 20 and 25 weeks into a term — or if an abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

That would effectively restore abortion rights to the same state they were before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 2022.

Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz, a DeSantis appointee, wrote in his own opinion that the citizen initiative was appropriate matter to put on the statewide ballot.

“The proposed amendment would constitutionalize restrictions on the people’s authority to use law to protect an entire class of human beings from private harm. It would cast into doubt the people’s authority even to enact protections that are prudent, compassionate, and mindful of the complexities involved,” he wrote. “Under our system of government, it is up to the voters—not this Court—to decide whether such a rule is consistent with the deepest commitments of our political community.”

Justices Charles Canady, an appointee of then-Republican former Gov. Charlie Crist, and John Couriel, a DeSantis appointee, both concurred with Muñiz. Justice Jorge LaBarga, a Crist appointee, did not sign onto that opinion but agreed with the majority opinion allowing the measure on the ballot.

The issue now will be put in front of voters. In order for a constitutional amendment to pass, at least 60% of voters who weigh in on the question in November must vote “yes.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody argued against allowing the measure on the ballot, saying the language set to appear on the ballot is misleading.

The following language will appear as the ballot summary: “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.”

Moody argued the term “viability” could cover a wide period of time in a pregnancy and could mislead some voters.

That argument carried weight with nearly half the justices on the court. Justice Renetha Francis, another DeSantis appointee, said the language of the proposal is in fact so vague it could leave abortion more unregulated than it was when Roe still remained the law of the land.

“The summary hides the ball as to the chief purpose of the proposed amendment: which, ultimately, is to—for the first time in Florida history—grant an almost unrestricted right to abortion,” she wrote in a dissenting opinion.

Justices Meredith Sasso and Jamie Grosshans, both DeSantis appointees as well, also penned or signed dissents.

“The summary does not give the voter any clarity on the decision they must actually make or reveal the amendment’s chief purpose,” Grosshans wrote. “Instead, it misleads by omission and fails to convey the breadth of what the amendment actually accomplishes—to enshrine broad, undefined terms in our constitution that will lead to decades of litigation.”

Last year, the GOP-dominated Legislature approved a measure banning most abortions after six weeks of gestation. That limit had been on hold, pending a Florida Supreme Court ruling over a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy passed in Florida in 2022. Justices also on Monday upheld the state legislation, triggering the more restrictive ban in 30 days.

Of note, Democrats are also counting on the ballot measure boosting turnout in November.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • tom palmer

    April 1, 2024 at 4:20 pm

    what was the vote?

    • Michael K

      April 1, 2024 at 5:12 pm

      But the six week ban takes effect May 1. Crazy. So women will have six months of tyranny and loss of freedom in Florida.
      Voters will decide this matter in November. Polls show overwhelming support for women making their own decisions, not the state.

    • rick whitaker

      April 1, 2024 at 5:29 pm


    • Marvin M.

      April 1, 2024 at 5:33 pm

      By close reading it looks like 4-3, with the three being all DeSantis appointees and probably all women, though the names Renetha, Meredith and Jaime can possibly be men’s names.
      But yeah, could have been made a lot clearer.
      Apparently the marijuana one will be on the ballot as well and that passed 5-2.

  • Michael K

    April 1, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    Good. I predict high voter turnout to protect women and their right to make their own reproductive health decisions.

  • Flash Light

    April 1, 2024 at 5:04 pm

    The 6-week ban takes effect in May. There will be six months till November for Floridians to fully digest the many downsides to womens’ health that a 6-week ban imposes.
    I believe Amendment 4 will pass in resounding fashion. Vote YES on Amendment 4.

  • No more republicans

    April 1, 2024 at 5:14 pm

    Vote for women, human rights, and against every republican in office. Eliminate the MAGAts and their communist agenda! No more attacks on children, parental rights, and basic human rights. No more religious indoctrination and social warfare. Live and love people. Make Florida great again and get rid of republicans!

  • Flash Light

    April 1, 2024 at 5:34 pm

    Two Justices who opposed the ballot measure – Renatha Francis and Meredith Sasso – are on the ballot in November for merit retention.
    Vote NO to retain these Supreme Court justices.

    • Vote all fascists out

      April 2, 2024 at 7:47 am

      Absolutely this should be part of the effort in November! Absurd for Francis to use as a “legal argument” that the people could vote for something less restrictive than Roe.

  • MH/Duuuval

    April 1, 2024 at 8:54 pm

    My view is that the MAGAs have been too smart by half since the reproduction rights struggle typically gets a large turnout and possibly will have a coattails effect up and down the ticket for anti-MAGAs. Florida could go back to purple — though we can be sure Dee will do everything his coterie of great minds can think of to minimize turnout.

  • Dale A Arnold

    April 2, 2024 at 10:23 am

    Vote yes on Amendments 4 and 3!
    Slap big government hand!

Comments are closed.


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