State economists sound skeptical that they will be able to put a price tag on a proposed constitutional amendment to protect access to abortion by a November deadline if the measure makes it to the 2024 ballot.
The quartet of state economists, sitting as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC), said it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on the state’s 15-week abortion ban passed in 2022 before its November deadline. And if the court were to uphold the 15-week ban before the deadline, a new 2023 law banning abortions after six weeks goes into effect 30 days later. That also will likely draw legal challenges.
Given that, the economists are leaning toward developing a financial statement explaining why they were not able to score the proposed amendment, a position they are allowed to take but something the group tries to avoid, said Office of Economic and Demographic Research and chief economist Amy Baker.
“We try not to default there. We try to do everything we can to get a number. But this one just seems like it has a bunch of permutations that will make it a challenge,” Baker said.
The FIEC is scheduled to meet two additional times before the Nov. 22 deadline. During those meetings, the FIEC will work on what’s called a “long form” which is a review of all the information the economists examined in their financial review of the proposed amendment.
The legal obstacles aren’t the only challenges, though.
Scoring the financial impact of the proposed constitutional amendment is also proving challenging because the economists have no economic understanding of how the 15-week abortion ban that went into effect impacted the state’s economy.
Senate economist Azhar Khan said even if they were able to agree to a price tag, “a big driver of that is what’s happening outside of Florida. And that’s not static either.”
There were 74,868 abortions in Florida in 2020, according to state data. More than 74% of the abortions performed in Florida that year were before 6 weeks. Another near 16% were performed between seven and nine weeks gestation.
Nearly 4,000 abortions were procedures performed on women who live outside of Florida. The majority (65.7%) of those women came from Georgia and Alabama, where abortion laws are more restrictive.
The number of abortions in 2022 jumped to 82,581, and so did the number of women (6,726) from out of state seeking abortions.
Meanwhile, the FIEC heard public testimony on Thursday from proponents and opponents, as well as presentations from economists who specialize in studying of the state’s education, health and human services, and criminal justice programs.
Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF) is the committee working to put abortion access on the ballot in 2024. Kara Gross, Legislative Director and Senior Policy Counsel for the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, testified on behalf of the proposed amendment. The FIEC also heard from Katie Glenn Daniel, Policy Director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which opposes the proposed amendment.
This won’t be the first time the FIEC has been unable to score a proposed amendment. Economists in 2019 could not agree on the impact of expanding Medicaid to low-income childless adults under the federal health insurance law. But the proposed constitutional amendment never made the ballot. The FIEC also was unable to put a number on a proposed utility amendment that also did not make the ballot.
The Florida Supreme Court will review the proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion to make sure it passes legal muster. Attorney General Ashley Moody is asking the court to reject the proposal.