Legal battle over Florida’s 15-week abortion ban will hinge on state’s constitutional right to privacy

State’s constitutional protection is ‘much broader in scope’ than U.S. law, judge said

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A personal right to privacy from the government is not included in the U.S. Constitution, but Florida’s founding document is a different story.

It’s on this constitutional provision that Leon County circuit court Judge John Cooper on Tuesday hung his temporary injunction against the state’s new law banning abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy.

Florida’s Constitution states, “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein.”

In his order, Cooper stated that a ban on abortions after 15 weeks violated the broad privacy clause in the state’s constitution and noted that the state’s Supreme Court has repeatedly set precedent determining that a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy is covered under that privacy provision.

Still, many anti-abortion rights activists argue that in the scenario of unwanted pregnancy, the mother’s gestating fetus must also be granted rights and protections as it is considered by those advocates to be a separate individual from the mother.

According to a Pew Research study published on June 13, roughly 61% of U.S. adults believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say the procedure should be illegal in all or most scenarios.

Shortly after Cooper issued the injunction blocking the abortion ban on Tuesday, attorneys for the state of Florida filed an appeal, putting the 15-week ban back into effect while the appellate court considers the case.

A group of organizations advocating for abortion rights released a joint statement on the appeal. The group includes the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm Jenner & Block.

“Florida’s 15-week ban has already blocked access to essential abortion care since last Friday, and it will continue to harm pregnant people until it is blocked,” the groups said in a statement. “The trial court correctly recognized this law as a blatant violation of Floridians’ state constitutional rights, and we’re determined to get it blocked for good. The majority of people support the right to get essential abortion care in Florida — a right many have relied on for decades to secure the life they wanted for themselves and their families.”

The new law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

The law was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring.

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