CV NEWS FEED // Back in January, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the state’s 15-week abortion ban. In taking up the case, the court denied pro-abortion groups’ requests to stay Florida’s current law, and it remains in effect during the pending trial.
The Florida case, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida v. State of Florida, looms almost exactly one year after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the ban into law in April 2022. In the near future, DeSantis has indicated he will sign into law S.B. 300 – a heartbeat bill that will decrease the legal gestational limit to six weeks – once it arrives on his desk. The resolution passed the state Senate on April 3 and the House on April 13. However, the legislation’s implementation will hinge on the Florida Supreme Court case.
The upcoming hearing has been compared by many to Dobbs v. Jackson. Like Dobbs, Planned Parenthood v. Florida also features an abortion facility challenging a state law that restricted abortion to 15 weeks. The outcome of the Florida case will inevitably shape the landscape of legal abortion across the country, as many other states consider limits and restrictions. Therefore, it has the potential to continue what Dobbs started.
On April 10, the Virginia-based pro-life group National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) filed an amicus curiae brief outlining arguments for upholding the abortion restriction. The brief was written by NIFLA’s counsel, married couple Jordan and Christine Pratt, both religious freedom lawyers with the Washington D.C.-based legal group First Liberty Institute.
Abortion ‘Rights’ vs. the First Amendment
NIFLA describes itself as a “nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel, education, and training to more than 1,700 pregnancy centers and medical clinics nationwide.” The group was the successful lead plaintiff in the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra. The case revolved around the FACT Act, a California state law that required pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to “post notices” visibly outlining the locations and contact information of abortion facilities. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.
As the Pratts explain in their amicus brief for the Florida case, “The [California] statute’s conflict with the First Amendment was stark and straightforward.” They write:
The Court’s holdings in NIFLA were standard First Amendment fare. Few would contend that the government may compel Alcoholics Anonymous to advertise the State’s ABC liquor stores or private colleges to advertise the State’s public universities. Yet, when it came to the judicially created right to abortion, California readily ignored this basic First Amendment limitation and compelled its pro-life citizens to advertise the State’s abortions.
The Pratts relate this ruling to Planned Parenthood v. Florida, arguing that when courts create a “right” to abortion, they inherently infringe on the pre-existing First Amendment freedoms of speech.
In addition, the husband and wife team hold that in the name of creating abortion “rights” the “government has attempted to coerce pro-life Americans to violate or set aside their deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of human life.”
Abortion ‘Rights’ and the Attacks on PRCs
In the last section of the brief outlines the argument that creating a “right” to abortion has caused political violence to spike, namely with the rise of attacks on PRCs that have exponentially skyrocketed in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Between June 24, 2022 and April 4, 2023, 83 pro-life organizations were attacked by pro-abortion extremists across the country, including three in the state of Florida.
Amicus has no illusion that this disintegration in our political discourse can be reversed overnight. But Amicus respectfully submits that, rather than perpetuate the breakdown, this Court should free the State to seek the healing and equilibrium that only the people themselves—acting through their elected representatives—can achieve, and that their constitutions permit them to pursue.
The Next Dobbs?
The Pratts urge the Florida Supreme Court to consider how recognizing the “right” to abortion that was created in 1973 by Roe v. Wade invalidates large swaths of the Constitution. The Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe, held that the Constitution “does not confer a right to abortion.” In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito stated that “the
right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” and in fact “the earliest article proposing a constitutional right to abortion that has come to our attention was
published only a few years before Roe.” Therefore, Alito and the other five justices in the majority determined that the way to be the truest to the Constitution was to throw the question of abortion law to elected state legislatures.
Again, from the Pratt brief:
In its Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the federal Constitution guarantees that the government may not take human life without ample judicial process and may not inflict cruel and unusual punishments for crimes. It defies all reason to claim that the same Constitution—which makes no reference to abortion— requires the government to allow the taking of innocent human life.
The U.S. Supreme Court finally admitted its error and returned to the people the sacred political right that it seized from them in Roe v. Wade. This case presents the question whether this Court should do likewise with respect to its own abortion precedents misconstruing the Florida Constitution.
While much of contemporary pro-abortion rhetoric frames the practice as a “right,” positing such a right fundamentally deprives Americans of some of the most basic rights in the U.S. Constitution, the brief states.
In Dobbs, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. It remains to be seen if the Florida Supreme Court will do the same.
The Pratts recommend:
This Court should follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s lead, return abortion to the democratic process, and allow the State to begin healing from the damage that this Court’s erroneous abortion precedents have caused.