Florida Attorney General Tells State Supreme Court There’s No Right to Abortion

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 30, 2023   |   3:12PM   |   Tallahassee, Florida

The idea that state and federal constitutions establish a “broad right to abort unborn life” is “egregiously wrong,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told her state Supreme Court this week in response to a lawsuit from the abortion chain Planned Parenthood.

In arguments filed Wednesday, Moody urged the Florida Supreme Court to uphold a 2022 law that protects unborn babies by banning most abortions after 15 weeks.

“In 1989, this court held that Florida’s state constitutional right of privacy … establishes a broad right to abort unborn life,” Moody’s office wrote. “That ruling was ‘egregiously wrong from the start,’” the brief continued, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson.

Last year, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other pro-abortion groups sued Florida after state lawmakers passed the 15-week ban, claiming it violates individuals’ right to privacy under the Florida Constitution.

Despite their attempts to block the law, however, the courts have allowed it to remain in effect while the lawsuit continues. The case now is before the Florida Supreme Court.

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In her argument to the court this week, Moody said past Florida Supreme Court cases wrongly prohibited the state legislature from protecting unborn babies from abortion.

“Rather than allow the legislative process to unfold in response to new scientific and medical developments, this Court’s 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 …” her office told the court.

To most ordinary people, the right to privacy means being left alone, free from government intrusion, the brief continued. But even when broadly interpreted, the right to privacy “certainly would not provide a right to cause harm, including to unborn life,” Moody’s office wrote.

According to the News Service of Florida, the pro-abortion groups suing to overturn the law assert that the right to privacy does include an unrestricted right to kill unborn babies in abortions.

“Plain text and historical context place beyond doubt that Florida’s privacy clause protects against governmental interference in all aspects of a person’s private life, including decisions about pregnancy,” their Feb. 27 brief argued. “The broad language of the privacy clause provides no textual basis to exclude a matter so private and central to personal autonomy as whether to continue a pregnancy and have a child.”

The outcome of the case is significant, not just because of the 15-week abortion ban, but also for the future ability of the state legislature to pass stronger laws to protect unborn babies from abortion.

Right now, the Florida Legislature is debating a heartbeat bill that would protect unborn babies by banning most abortions once their heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed for rape, incest and cases when the mother’s life is at risk or to avert “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment,” as well as a fatal fetal diagnosis.

The pro-life legislation also would provide $25 million to help pregnancy centers expand resources to pregnant and parenting families in need. An additional $5 million would go to the state family planning program to provide contraception to low-income individuals.

If it passes, the heartbeat bill potentially would save tens of thousands of unborn babies’ lives every year. In 2022, there were 82,192 abortions in Florida, according to state health statistics.

Republicans control the state legislature, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a pro-life Republican, recently promised to support legislation to restrict abortions and protect babies in the womb.

Florida leaders have been working through many different avenues to protect unborn babies from abortion. For example, Moody’s office won another victory for life earlier this month when a federal judge said the state may enforce a 2016 law that defunds the billion-dollar abortion chain Planned Parenthood.

The DeSantis administration also shut down a Pensacola abortion facility after state health inspectors said it nearly killed three women in botched abortions within a span of nine months.