Joe Henderson: Jason Pizzo is right about the abortion issue — let the people decide
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/16/21-Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, speaks during the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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The Miami state Senator floated an idea to settle the abortion question with a statewide election.

Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami just gave a perfect exit ramp for those lawmakers who’d rather not deal with the abortion question. His idea to give Florida voters the final say about abortions in this state makes considerable sense.

Yes, it would get some lawmakers off the hook for dealing with an explosive issue, but that’s not the biggest reason to do this. It’s just the right way to decide something deeply personal to those on both sides of this issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court, by gutting Roe v. Wade, ruled that it’s up to the states to decide the fate of abortion within their boundaries. Florida is more than just Tallahassee legislators. About 21 million people live here, and they should have a say about this.

This deserves more than a gerrymandered party-line vote in the Legislature, and a signing ceremony fit for a “DeSantis 2024” campaign ad. Pizzo said turning it over to the people gives cover to Republicans who might feel squeamish about supporting a total ban.

He’s probably right, but I don’t think that’s exclusive to the GOP.

I suspect there are Democrats who also feel conflicted about abortion, but don’t want to restrict a woman’s right to choose. They also don’t believe the draconian GOP law that makes no exception for rape or incest is right, and hard-liners won’t bend because they believe life begins at conception.

There will never be anything close to a unanimous agreement for either position.

But I think the overarching point here is that since the abortion issue affects the people, the people have a right to decide this in the time-honored American way — at the ballot box.

Of course, there would be a lot to work out before an election.

It couldn’t be a straight up-or-down question: No abortion period, or unlimited abortion on demand? That wouldn’t work.

Most voters probably would want restrictions on how long a pregnancy could go before it could be terminated. The question might limit it to the first trimester unless it’s rape or incest.

Yes, it’s complicated, and Florida has never faced an issue like this.

I’m honestly not sure which side would win a statewide vote. Abortion opponents certainly make their feelings known, as do pro-choice proponents.

If this ever went to a vote, the one thing we could be sure of is a massive turnout. The people would decide, not just a handful of lawmakers locked into a rigid ideology because of their party’s official position.

That, by the way, applies to both sides.

DeSantis is on the record for expanding “pro-life protections.” However, a statewide vote would fit neatly into his narrative of “the free state of Florida.” That would be true no matter how it went.

He would have an opportunity for a populist position in his “undeclared” 2024 presidential campaign. He could trumpet that he trusted the people to make the right choice.

Yes, Pizzo’s idea makes sense on so many levels. But it also assumes steadfast abortion opponents actually care what anyone else thinks or wants.

That will be the highest hurdle of all.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


4 comments

  • Julia

    July 11, 2022 at 8:03 pm

    There is not a single issue in the culture wars that is not subject to compromise. In order to reach compromise, however, the issue has to be taken out of the federal courts, which do not deal in compromise. Thank God, the supreme court finally recognised that regarding abortion. The culture wars are almost wholly the creation of the federal court system, and now is a golden opportunity to pass something where both sides get something.

  • Richard Bruce

    July 11, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    Our representatives need to reach a compromise. Voting on one yes/no item on a ballot will not satisfy anyone. That is the beauty of a Constitutional Representative Republic that our Founders created.

  • ScienceBLVR

    July 11, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    Not sure you are or Pizzo are right that this should be a state’s right/vote issue. Not this time. We may be stuck here for reasons that still amaze me, but I do think in Florida, a woman’s individual choice would win out with some restrictions- 4 months seems like a good point, and the inclusion of those pesky exceptions. But…some rights are so intrinsic, they can’t be left to the whims of whatever party is in power in any individual state. Some rights just have to be protected federally. I grew up in a time, when states got to decide if different races could vote, or eat at the same restaurant, or marry, or attend the same schools. My Midwest high school wasn’t integrated until 1972. So let the states decide? On something as important as this? Nah….

  • E. Z. Duzzit

    July 12, 2022 at 6:04 am

    I propose a solution both simple and final–and federal, for all who think DC must rule over everyone. Amend the federal constitution to say babies in the womb are citizens of the US and therefore entitled to the natural right to life, and that right cannot be taken away except by decision of a court. That way the panic abortions are taken out it yet someone with a proper need for it can make their case before a neutral body.

Comments are closed.


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