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Florida Supreme Court considers whether its abortion ban violates right to privacy

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Florida's Supreme Court heard arguments today against the state's abortion law, which bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion access advocates say the law violates a right to privacy guaranteed under the state constitution. And the ruling, which won't come out for a while, will have implications for abortion access not just in Florida but in the whole Southeastern U.S. WFSU reporter Regan McCarthy joins us now from Tallahassee. Hi, Regan.

REGAN MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Hello.

CHANG: So I know that you were in court for the arguments, and so were some members of the public, right? What did you hear from people who showed up today?

MCCARTHY: Yes, there were people from really both sides or all sides of the issue there during the arguments today. And then afterwards, sort of a dueling rally broke out outside of the courthouse where I heard from people who are really passionate about this issue. One of the people I spoke with was Andy Secola, who showed up with an anti-abortion group, Students for Life Action. He says abortion isn't protected by the state constitution.

ANDY SECOLA: What Planned Parenthood's trying to do is go against what the people want and extend the rights of privacy to the right to an abortion. It never explicitly says that.

MCCARTHY: I should mention here that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group behind this case. The ACLU's involved, as are several other regional women's health centers.

CHANG: OK.

MCCARTHY: Another person I spoke with was really wanting to talk about the fact that abortion and privacy are tied together. His name is Ben Braver (ph). He showed up to the hearing today to show his support for abortion access.

BEN BRAVER: If they wanted Florida to be a freer place, they'd let people make their own decisions, not have the state dictate them.

MCCARTHY: So one of the reasons I think this case is so important to people is because if the state Supreme Court upholds the current 15-week ban that's in place right now, it triggers a six-week ban that lawmakers passed earlier this year.

CHANG: I see. OK. So we heard from people who showed up today. But what were the arguments presented to the Florida Supreme Court justices?

MCCARTHY: I think that the arguments today really centered on whether a state privacy ban that's in the state constitution applies to abortion access. So back in 1980, people passed this constitutional amendment to put this privacy ban or this privacy provision in place. And then in 1989, the state Supreme Court said that that privacy provision extends to abortion access. Today the justices are being asked to reconsider that decision. And one of the questions that they were really asking lawyers is, hey; when this was passed in 1980, Roe v. Wade was in effect. Did people really think that this would extend to abortion access?

CHANG: Well, Florida isn't the only state confronting this question, right? Like, there's a very similar case being decided in Georgia right now. And I understand that the South Carolina Supreme Court decided just a few weeks ago that abortion is not covered under their state constitution's right to privacy. So how much do those proceedings in those other states impact what's playing out in Florida right now?

MCCARTHY: So I think one of the first things to, like, make sure everyone's clear on is that when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs decision, that really gave abortion decisions to individual states. So each state makes its own decisions about how abortion is handled. But Florida has one of the least restrictive abortion rules in place right now. So if this 15-week ban is upheld and a 6-week ban is triggered, that makes a lot of people who have been counting on abortion care in Florida need to travel elsewhere, maybe to North Carolina...

CHANG: Right.

MCCARTHY: ...Or even farther north for abortion care.

CHANG: That is Regan McCarthy in Tallahassee. Thank you so much, Regan.

MCCARTHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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