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Florida Supreme Court expected to rule soon on law protecting unborn children after 15 weeks

by | Jun 2, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

Yesterday, Florida Phoenix reporter  Michael Moline wrote a speculative piece about how soon (it’s “drawing nearer to deciding”) the Florida Supreme Court will come down on the constitutionality of the state’s law protecting unborn children after 15 weeks. If the justices uphold HB 5, or the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality bill, it gives them the opportunity to consider The Heartbeat Act.

That law allows abortion throughout pregnancy to protect the life of the mother or in cases of reported rape, incest, medical emergency or when the child has a fatal condition, but it will protect unborn children from elective abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy—a time at which the unborn child has a beating heart.

Moline’s animus for the governor is weaved into the heart of the story. But once you consider that Gov. DeSantis might actually be genuinely pro-life, you have a whole different perspective.
 

The briefing stage—where the justices receive dozens of brief from many different organizations on both sides of the law—is over, according to spokesman Paul Flemming. “Now we wait for the court to decide whether to hear oral arguments in its Duval Street courthouse in Tallahassee or rely on the legal briefs alone,” Moline writes.

Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor, told Moline, “One could legitimately ask, ‘Why is the court taking so long?’ I’m sure there are a lot of people in the public who are going, ‘Why isn’t this a done deal already?’ And, obviously, it is moving as fast as appellate litigation moves — which is to say, not very fast at all.”

However, “I think you now will see it speed up. We will certainly have a decision by the end of the year,” Jarvis said.

Moline switches at the point to whether the protective 15 week law violates the Florida Constitution’s Privacy Clause, adopted by the voters in 1980. That clause reads

“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. This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.”

But in a May 1 story in the News Service of Florida, we read

In a March 29 brief, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office argued that past rulings on abortion rights were “clearly erroneous” and that decisions about abortion restrictions should be left to the Legislature.

“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,” the state’s brief said.

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