Florida Abortion Rights Defenders Surpass Target for Ballot Measure

Supporters of the Florida measure—similar to other initiatives across the country—say they are “confident that voters will approve our amendment.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 1-5-2024 by Common Dreams

Screenshot: CBS News

As of Friday, Florida residents and groups fighting for a state constitutional amendment to limit government interference with abortion care have collected enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot this November.

The proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution states that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

Floridians Protecting Freedom is the statewide campaign of residents, healthcare providers, and groups—including the ACLU of Florida, Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition, and Planned Parenthood organizations in the state—working to get the measure on the ballot and approved by at least 60% of voters.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, the campaign has over 911,000 valid signatures, well beyond the 891,523 required.

“The fact that we only launched our campaign eight months ago and we’ve already reached our petition goal speaks to the unprecedented support and momentum there is to get politicians out of our private lives and healthcare decisions,” said Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director Lauren Brenzel in a statement.

“Most initiative campaigns never make it this far,” Brenzel added. “The ones that do usually spend far more or take much longer to qualify, which is why we’re so confident that voters will approve our amendment once they’re given a chance to vote.”

NBC News reported Friday that “at least 150,000 of the collected and validated signatures came from registered Republican voters, underscoring the broad support for abortion rights across political lines.”

Collecting enough signatures isn’t the only barrier to actually getting the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday scheduled oral arguments about whether to approve the measure’s wording for February 7. Republican state Attorney General Ashley Moody and anti-choice groups have challenged the language.

All seven of the Florida Supreme Court’s justices were appointed by Republican governors—five of them by Gov. Ron DeSantis. He is a longshot presidential candidate and among state GOP leaders who have ramped up efforts to end abortion access since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in 2022.

Abortion is currently banned in Florida after 15 weeks, with limited exceptions. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments for a challenge to that policy in September but has not yet issued a decision. If the justices uphold the law, a six-week ban signed by DeSantis last year is set to take effect.

With a right-wing U.S. Supreme Court and a divided Congress, Floridians Protecting Freedom is far from alone in turning to a ballot measure to restore and protect reproductive rights at the state level. There are similar initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, and South Dakota, along with a complicated battle in Arkansas.

Since Dobbs, voters have rejected statewide ballot measures aimed at restricting abortion care and supported initiatives to protect reproductive rights—including in November, when Ohio voters approved establishing a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, and miscarriage care.

The win in Ohio has made Florida Women’s Freedom executive director Anna Hochkammer hopeful about her state. She told Politico this week that “what Ohio did was, it took a lot of people who were doubtful and… didn’t really want to believe what the numbers were telling them and gave them permission to believe that this was possible.”

“This is an actual grassroots movement in Florida,” she stressed. “For a quarter of the money, and a little bit of common sense about what people on the ground want, you can get things done in Florida.”

The signature tally has made Dr. Cecilia Grande, a Miami OB-GYN and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care Reproductive Freedom Taskforce, similarly optimistic. She said in a statement Friday that “this is such an important milestone in the effort to ensure doctors like myself can properly care for our pregnant patients facing a wide variety of issues and potential complications.”

“Too often, access to abortion and other critical care is politicized at the expense of patients who just need timely and quality healthcare, not politicians trying to score political points,” the doctor added. “Once voters get a chance to weigh in, Florida will return to a time when patients and healthcare providers can decide together the best course of action in each unique circumstance.”

The voter turnout in Florida and beyond could be significant, given that 2024 is a presidential election year. While support for reproductive rights may help Democratic candidates, Politico noted this week that based on an analysis of five abortion-related measures that have appeared on the ballot since Dobbs, new “initiatives may not give Democrats the lift they are aiming for.”

“Voters decisively upheld abortion rights in every single case,” Politico explained of previous measures. “But those margins were largely driven by Republican voters who also voted for GOP candidates. And Democratic turnout didn’t consistently increase in states with abortion referendums compared to those without.”

Democratic President Joe Biden, who supports abortion rights, is seeking reelection and former U.S. President Donald Trump is the leading GOP candidate, despite his criminal cases and arguments that he is constitutionally disqualified from holding office again. The Washington Post reported Friday that top anti-choice advocates are now “plotting actions that they believe a Trump administration would take as early as next year to crack down on abortion.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud