Fried knocks Crist’s abortion-rights credentials as 15-week ban takes effect

Questions whether his FL Supreme Court picks will uphold rights

By: - July 1, 2022 12:09 pm

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried gathered abortion-rights supporters on July 1, 2022, at the Florida Supreme Court, which will rule in a challenge to Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban. Credit: Michael Moline

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried wants primary voters worried about the loss of abortion rights to remember that her opponent, Charlie Crist, named three of the justices of the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide whether they keep those rights.

Fried, who serves as commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and is the only Democrat holding statewide elected office, gathered several dozen people at the front steps of the court to press that point on Friday, the day Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban took effect.

“The top line is: Go vote. The Supreme Court of Florida will have the ultimate decision on HB 5 and, unfortunately, we have a very conservative court right now. Two justices that were appointed by Charlie and the rest by Ron,” Fried said. (She referred, of course, to Gov. Ron DeSantis,)

“And, unfortunately, it’s become extremely conservative compared to the last time they ruled on an abortion issue.”

In fact, Crist, a former Republican governor and now a Democratic congressman, appointed three justices who are still on the court. They are Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, and Jorge Labarga.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

DeSantis has appointed John Muñiz, now chief justice, plus John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans. Rick Scott named Alan Lawson, who’s retiring on Aug. 31.

“It literally is one of the most important decision that a president or a governor has is their appointment of judges, because it has lasting impact way after their terms,” Fried said. “Seeing today the impact of justices that were appointed way, you know, by presidents a long ago and unfortunately they’re having drastic impacts on our freedoms today.”

This week, Crist promised to veto any legislation restricting abortion rights and to sign an exectutive order “protecting women’s reproductive freedoms on day one.”

Injunction

Circuit Judge John Cooper in Leon County announced on Thursday that he would enjoin enforcement of the abortion law, HB 5, on the ground that it violates the privacy rights that state voters enshrined in the Florida Constitution in 1980. The ruling won’t take effect until Cooper signs a written order, possibly as soon as Tuesday.

The law forbids abortions past 15 weeks’ gestational age unless a pregnancy endangers the health of the mother or in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, with no exception for rape and incest.

One week ago to the day, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, ending federal protections for abortion rights and throwing the matter to the states.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1989 and on other occasions that the privacy provision protects the right to abortion. In 2012, the voters handily rejected the Legislature’s proposed constitutional amendment to nullify that ruling.

But the DeSantis court is much more conservative than that court and has demonstrated its willingness to overthrow precedents.

“I will never give up hope, but I’m also pragmatic, and so that’s why we’re here today. That’s why we’re going to continue to fight and make sure that the citizens of Florida understand the ramifications of decisions that were made by Ron DeSantis and Charlie Crist about who got appointed to the Florida Supreme Court and what our next steps are going to be,” Fried said.

“We cannot wait; we cannot be on defense; we’ve got to be on offense. Which is why it’s so important to be voting in this election; that’s why it’s so important that you have an ally in the governor’s office to veto any pieces of legislation that are going to continue to infringe upon these rights and to use the governor’s office to show support and power to get a constitutional amendment that goes further than that right to privacy that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misreported the name of the governor who appointed Justice Jorge Labarga. It was Charlie Crist.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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