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Florida Heartbeat Bill pushing toward approval in both houses, Attorney General Moody tells state Supreme Court abortion precedents are ‘clearly erroneous’

by | Mar 31, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

While the Florida legislature is edging closer to enacting its Heartbeat Protection Act, Attorney General Ashley Moody is urging the state Supreme Court to uphold HB 5, the 15-week abortion ban. The Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality bill took effect in July.  

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed with the seven abortion clinics and physician Shelly Hsiao-Ying Tien 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 temporary injunction. Justices in January agreed to take up the case, which also involves arguments about the “irreparable harm” issue. 

Late Wednesday, Moody’s office “filed a 67-page brief arguing that justices should rule that a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution does not protect abortion rights and that past rulings on the issue were ‘clearly erroneous,’” according to Jim Saunders, writing for the News Service of Florida. The brief went further saying the Legislature should make decisions about limitations on abortion.

“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 1980, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that established state privacy rights. “A 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling set an initial precedent about the privacy clause protecting abortion rights, and subsequent decisions have followed that precedent,” Saunders wrote.

But in brief filed Wednesday, the attorney general office

went into extensive detail to try to show the 1980 constitutional amendment was not meant to apply to abortion issues.

“Whatever else it may contain, a right of privacy does not include a right to cause harm,” one part of the brief said.

Meanwhile, the “Heartbeat Protection Act” (SB 300)”was set for approval next week” in the Senate, John Kennedy wrote for the USA TODAY network. “The House is expected to follow soon.”

The new measure “allows exceptions for rape or incest, or when the mother is facing severe injury or death, or the fetus has a fatal abnormality.”

Earlier on Thursday, the House Health and Human Services Committee (HHS) approved the six-week proposal 13-7.

While the Senate bill is set for a Monday vote, “the House is a step behind,” Kennedy wrote. HHS Chair Randy Fine “said it’s likely the full House will not take up the proposal until after lawmakers break next week for Passover and Easter.”

Categories: State Legislation
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