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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to fight abortion amendment

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

TALLAHASSEE -- Attorney General Ashley Moody will try to block a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to ensure abortion rights in Florida, according to a filing Monday at the state Supreme Court.

Moody took a required step of asking the Supreme Court to review the wording of the proposed amendment, which supporters hope to put on the November 2024 ballot. As part of that filing, Moody wrote, "I submit that the aforementioned initiative does not satisfy the legal requirements for ballot placement."

The Supreme Court plays a key gatekeeper role, as it reviews proposed ballot initiatives to determine if the wording is clear and is limited to single subjects. It can reject initiatives that don't meet legal standards.

In Moody's filing Monday, she said she would detail her objections in a brief that will be submitted later. But in an opinion piece posted Friday on the Florida's Voice website, Moody wrote that her opposition to the issue going on the ballot "has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion. Instead, as I have done throughout my two terms, I have objected to initiatives when the language of the summary will mislead voters."

She pointed to part of the proposed amendment that says it would prevent restrictions on abortion before "viability." Moody wrote in the opinion piece that "viability" can have more than one meaning.

"While I personally would not vote for this initiative no matter what definition of 'viability' it was using, I know that to some voters, it is material to their vote - whether you are talking about an abortion in the first trimester or at the end of the second trimester," the opinion piece said. "Floridians are entitled to know clearly and concisely what they are voting for or against."

Moody was required to send the proposal to the Supreme Court because the political committee Floridians Protecting Freedom cleared a legal hurdle of submitting 222,881 valid petition signatures to the state. The committee had submitted 402,082 valid signatures as of Monday afternoon. The total reflects signatures that have been validated, not necessarily the overall number of signatures collected.

Along with needing Supreme Court approval of the proposed wording, Floridians Protecting Freedom must submit at least 891,523 valid signatures by a Feb. 1 deadline to get on the ballot.

Floridians for Protecting Freedom announced the ballot initiative in May after the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a bill that seeks to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The proposed constitutional amendment would bar laws that restrict abortion "before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health, as determined by the patient's healthcare provider."

Ballot fights also have played out in other states since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision. The Supreme Court's ruling left abortion decisions to states.

Under Roe v. Wade, fetal viability was generally understood to mean about 23 or 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

"Every time abortion access has been on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned, voters have spoken out in support of access and keeping the government out of our private lives," Lauren Brenzel, Floridians for Protecting Freedom campaign director, said in a statement last month. "And we're not just talking about places like Vermont and California, but also in states from Kansas to Kentucky. Our amendment will qualify for the ballot and, come next November, Floridians will add their voices to the chorus of support across the country for patients having control of their own lives, bodies and futures."

DeSantis and lawmakers last year passed a law that prevented abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Florida Supreme Court is weighing a constitutional challenge to that law.

Lawmakers this year went further by passing a six-week limit. But that limit is contingent on the 15-week law being upheld by the Supreme Court.

Moody also is fighting a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational use of marijuana. The Supreme Court is scheduled Nov. 8 to hear arguments on the wording of that initiative.

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