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Florida court allows 6-week abortion ban, but voters can decide

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The Florida Supreme Court on Monday overturned decades of legal precedent by ruling that privacy protections under the state Constitution do not extend to abortion, allowing Florida to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

But in a separate ruling issued at the same time, the justices allowed Florida voters to decide this fall whether to expand access to abortion. The court ruled 4-3 that a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion “before viability,” typically around 24 weeks, could be put on the November ballot.

The decisions sum up, in a single state and on a single day, how the country has grappled with the issue of abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which recognized the right federal ban on abortion in 1973.

The conservative-leaning court ruled that a 15-week abortion ban enacted in 2022 was constitutional. The move will allow a six-week ban enacted last year to take effect within 30 days.

By paving the way for the six-week ban, the court cemented the rapid transformation of Florida, once a destination for women seeking abortions in the southern United States, into a country with restrictive policies similar to those neighboring states.

But allowing the vote gave abortion rights supporters a chance to continue their nationwide campaign to preserve access to the procedure by giving voters a chance to weigh in directly on the issue. Voter measures in favor of abortion rights have already succeeded in seven states, including Kansas, Ohio and Michigan.

Historically, many women from Southern states with stricter bans traveled to Florida for abortions. They will now have to have abortions much further away, perhaps in Virginia or Washington DC. Few women know they are pregnant at six weeks, and abortion rights supporters say the stricter ban, once in effect, will amount to a near-total ban. .

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