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Florida top court lets abortion rights ballot measure go to voters

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Florida’s top court on Monday cleared the way for voters to decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to establish a right to abortion, rejecting a bid by the Republican state attorney general to keep the measure off the Nov. 5 ballot.
The proposal’s backers in January secured the required number of signatures to put it on the ballot. It would ban laws that “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.” Abortion is illegal after 15 weeks in Florida under a law signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in 2022.
Attorney General Ashley Moody sued Floridians Protecting Freedom, the abortion rights group sponsoring the measure, and had argued that the proposal was impermissibly vague and misleading. The Florida Supreme Court, whose members all were appointed by Republican governors, heard arguments in the case in February.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent that had recognized a constitutional right to abortion. Since that decision, Republican-backed abortion restrictions have gone into effect in numerous states.
Abortion rights advocates have sought to put the matter directly to the voters. Abortion rights measures have prevailed everywhere they have been on the ballot since the Supreme Court’s decision.
Constitutional amendments in Florida must pass with at least 60% of the vote, a larger percentage of the vote than any statewide abortion measure has yet won.
Last November, voters approved by a margin of 57% to 43% a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights in Ohio, a state that in the 2020 election voted for Republican Donald Trump by a margin of 8 percentage points over Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election. In 2020, Trump topped Biden by 3 percentage points in Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court currently is weighing whether to uphold the state’s current 15-week abortion ban law and to let a stricter ban starting at six weeks of pregnancy, also signed by the governor, take effect.

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