Activists supporting abortion rights demonstrated in Florida the previous year during discussions on a six-week ban—which is set to become effective next month. The Washington Post/Contributor/Getty

Combat misinformation: Enroll in the complimentary Politics Daily bulletin and keep yourself updated on the significant news.

The Supreme Court in Florida delivered two significant decisions today regarding abortion, both of which will tighten access in the short run and permit voters to determine whether to expand abortion rights during the forthcoming November election. 

One of the rulings from the court allows the implementation of a ban on abortions after six weeks—endorsed into law by the Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, in April last year, as per the Associated Press. 

Alternatively, in the other decision, the court determined that residents of Florida could vote on a proposition to expand abortion rights in the elections scheduled for November. Voters will consider a revision to the constitution that would guarantee the right to abortion in the state before the stage of what is considered fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks into gestation. 

The contradictory rulings essentially position Florida as a miniature version of the contentious national abortion scenario, marked by anti-abortion Republicans aiming to limit access at all costs and abortion rights supporters battling to restore access—often effectively through voting undertakings—following the repercussions of the Dobbs ruling. 

By enabling the six-week ban to become operational, the court positions Florida as one of the most stringent anti-abortion states in the nation: Just two other states, Georgia and South Carolina, at present have six-week prohibitions, with 14 other states banning abortion more or less entirely. Six weeks is preceding the time when most individuals recognize they are pregnant, hence, the law would practically extinguish the option of abortion for 4.6 million women of childbearing age in Florida, along with the transgender and nonbinary people in the state seeking abortions.

The new prohibition will also abolish Florida’s reputation as a “rare sanctuary for abortion rights” in the South, as stated by my Reveal colleague, Laura Morel, earlier in 2022, the same year when a 15-week prohibition was enforced in the state. Even with that regulation, the state continued to be a crucial access point for the South, since a majority of abortions transpire before 13 weeks’ gestation. The Guttmacher Institute noted an increase of 8,940 abortions in Florida when comparing last year to 2020, representing a 12% rise, predominantly fueled by patients from other states. 

The judgment on the voting proposition provides more optimism for backers of abortion rights: According to my colleague Madison Pauly’s coverage, voters have consistently favored retaining abortion rights in every post-Dobbs voting initiative pertaining to this topic. Furthermore, public opinion surveys have revealed that most Florida voters advocate for legalizing abortion in all or most scenarios—similarly to voters nationwide

Community organizers in Florida compiled signatures from almost one million people last year to request the amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion before fetal viability. However, the State Attorney General in Florida urged the court to obstruct this proposition, asserting it was excessively intricate for voters to comprehend. Following the recent ruling, Floridians Protecting Freedom, the grassroots organization behind the proposed amendment, pledged “Floridians will vote and we will succeed,” emphasizing that this is the sole approach to halt the six-week ban in its tracks. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group, termed the judgment on the voting measure “a triumph for democracy.” “This voting proposal could fundamentally revolutionize abortion accessibility across the US South and now, the authority to bring this change lies with the citizens,” the organization expressed in a message on X. 

Yet, the enthusiasm was dampened by the additional limitations the court imposed on accessibility. 

An announcement from the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund revealed that its organizers anticipate the six-week ban will affect nearly all of its clients, who are “already encountering one or more obstacles to receive care, such as insufficient finances, transportation, child care, or a nearby abortion clinic in their vicinity.” The organization also anticipated “a substantial rise in clients and consequently an escalation in costs” given that the majority of Floridians will now have to journey outside the state to have abortions. 

A spokesperson from Guttmacher mentioned that although the ruling on the voting initiative was a “remarkable achievement,” the six-week ban “constitutes a severe setback for Floridians and might result in extensive confusion and turmoil for patients and providers on the ground.”

“Once the six-week ban in Florida becomes effective in 30 days, individuals from neighboring states requiring care post-six weeks will now need to travel greater distances, pushing the care further away for many—specifically for those with fewer resources or marginalized by systemic racism and economic instability,” stated Kelly Baden, Vice President of Public Policy at Guttmacher, in a declaration.