Friday was a day that some Americans had feared and others had longed for for decades: In a 6-3 ruling, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, its long-standing precedent codifying a constitutional right to abortion. In Roe's place, the court’s opinion essentially gives states carte blanche to restrict the procedure as they see fit.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question," reads the court's majority opinion. "The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
Thirteen states in the U.S., including Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, have so-called "trigger" laws in place that will ban or restrict abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned, according to The New York Times. Some go into effect immediately.
While Florida is not one of those states, the Florida Legislature recently passed a 15-week abortion ban that will go into effect at the beginning of July. Friday’s ruling would suggest that that policy would be upheld by state courts, but the Florida Constitution includes a little-known voter-approved amendment that requires people to “be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life,” reports USA Today Network-Florida.
The news comes as surveys show that a majority of Americans support access to abortion. A Pew Research Center report from 2022 showed that 61 percent of U.S. adults thought abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Polling from earlier this year in Florida showed that 57 percent of a selection of registered voters opposed the state’s 15-week abortion ban.
Federal and state Republican lawmakers spared no time letting Floridians know how they felt on Friday. Within hours, many state leaders publicized prepared statements noting their support for the court’s ruling.
“Today, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the abortion issue back to the states—where it belongs,” wrote U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, on Twitter. “I believe every American, born and unborn, has the God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, echoed those thoughts, writing that "more than 63 million unborn children have been murdered by abortion since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973."
Leaders in the Florida Legislature, like Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, both issued statements commending the court.
“I have been and will always continue to be unmovable on the need to protect unborn life,” Sprowls said in a statement he posted to Twitter. “In Florida, our attention must now shift to the state courts and the Florida Supreme Court as they evaluate HB5 and determine its constitutionality here—an additional hurdle present in our state.”
Neither state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, nor state Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, responded to requests for comment. But state Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, whose district covers parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, tells Sarasota Magazine it’s time for voters to decide what’s important to them.
“It’s clear we have Republican leadership in the state Legislature and Governor’s Mansion that, if it was up to them, they would do a complete abortion ban,” says Rayner. “We have to be very mindful about who we elect. People’s ability to be in their own bodies is literally on the line."
At the start of the month, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s 15-week abortion ban.
“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians across the country the power to control what people can do with their own bodies,” said Planned Parenthood president and chief executive officer Fraim in a statement. “This means millions of Americans will no longer be trusted to determine the course of their own lives.”
Already, patients are coming every day from out of state to seek care in Florida, according to Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer.
Responding to the Supreme Court ruling, Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida is holding a rally and overnight sit-in at Sarasota's Five Points Park that will begin at 7 p.m. and run until 7 a.m. tomorrow.
Rayner says that now is not the time to give up.
“I feel like every other day, we’re picking up a different battle to fight,” she says. “But I believe that Republicans and the far right are counting on us to be tired so that we don’t continue to move forward. This is not the time to grow weary.”