In a court hearing this week, Florida’s Supreme Court justices listened to arguments about the wording of a proposed abortion ballot measure. This case was not about whether the proposed measure should be passed but whether the ballot language was clear and focused on one issue.
Essentially, the proposed ballot would grant Floridians the right to abortions “before viability,” which is generally considered between 22 and 25 weeks of pregnancy. The measure garnered almost one million signatures, far more than the 891,523 signatures required to put it on the ballot.
Starting today, oral arguments begin in the Florida Supreme Court about putting abortion on the ballot.
People, not politicians, should make their own reproductive choices, and no one can truly be free until that is true.
It's time to secure abortion rights.
— Rep. Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) February 7, 2024
Nathan Forrester, arguing on behalf of the state attorney general’s office, argued the ballot measure should be disqualified. He said the language on the ballot was too broad and would confuse voters because its language had an “enormously wide range of meanings.” He also argued that the ballot had sweeping ramifications for abortion in Florida.
However, the justices were not convinced by Forrester’s arguments. They said that the ballot was sufficiently focused on a single issue and that the wording was not overly confusing for voters. “The people of Florida aren’t stupid. They can figure this out,” said Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz.
Justice Charles Canady added that this hearing was not about a “restriction on the substance of what can be proposed.” He said that the role may return to the court if and when the ballot is passed, but for now, the court has no authority to dictate the substance of proposed ballot measures. If the amendment passes, only then will the court have the authority to dictate its limits.
The judges were particularly critical of the bill’s opponents, sharply criticizing some of their arguments. “You’re saying this is a wolf,” said Justice John Couriel, “And a wolf it may be, but it seems our job is to say whether it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Essentially, he argued that though people might disagree with the measure itself, its language was plain, and he saw no reason the court should restrict it from appearing on the ballot.
If the measure appears on the ballot in November, it will need 60% approval in the state to pass. From there, it will be up to the court to determine the specific parameters to apply the measure.
Whether this measure passes or fails, it will likely affect not only Florida but the surrounding states as well. In many of the surrounding states, abortion is even more restricted, and many women go to Florida for abortions.