Abortion amendment could boost Democrats in November

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The Supreme Court has its say next month.

On Friday, Floridians Protecting Freedom said their bid to have adult reproductive rights enshrined in the Constitution will be Amendment 4 on the 2024 ballot.

“We received official notice today from the Secretary of State,” the group posted to social media Friday. “The amendment to limit government interference is official! We got our number! Now, all eyes are on the Supreme Court of Florida to let us vote Yes on 4 in ‘24!”

The organization includes ACLU Florida, Florida Rising, Planned Parenthood, Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition, United Healthcare Workers East Florida and more than 200 local, statewide and national organizations, and it appears to be on the verge of a historic grassroots initiative for women’s rights, assuming the high court allows it over the objections of the state’s leading legal officer.

As the Florida Phoenix reported, “Maria Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Elections, acknowledged in a letter to Floridians Protecting Freedom that the Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion would appear on the ballot as Amendment 4.”

The language is a clear challenge to the current orthodoxy of the super-majority Republican Legislature, assuming it passes muster with the Florida Supreme Court.

“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. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion,” the summary asserts.

The abortion rights referendum, if it survives court scrutiny and earns at least 60% support in the November 2024 election, would prohibit any law limiting the ability to obtain an abortion before fetal viability — generally between 20 and 25 weeks into a term — or if an abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

Proponents say it would restore the right to an abortion in Florida to where it was until the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, that ruling allowed women to end pregnancies up to 24 weeks of gestation. The new Dobbs decision moved regulation of the procedure to state jurisdiction.

Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban. The ban could tighten to six weeks if the state Supreme Court rejects a legal challenge arguing that the 15-week ban violates the state constitution’s right to privacy clause.

To make the ballot, proposed constitutional amendments must gather 892,523 verified petition signatures — a number tied to 8% of voter turnout in the most recent Presidential Election. Amendments must also hit the 8% threshold in a majority of Florida’s 28 congressional districts.

Last year, the GOP-dominated Legislature approved a measure banning most abortions after six weeks of gestation. That limit is on hold, pending a Florida Supreme Court ruling over a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy passed in Florida in 2022.

In Florida, Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked the state Supreme Court to disqualify the amendment question from the ballot, arguing its summary language would mislead voters.

The ballot proposal in Florida, if approved by 60% of voters, would codify abortion protections “before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health.” Moody called the language “one of the worst I have seen” and said voters could interpret “viability” as anywhere between 12 and 15 weeks.

“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,” Moody wrote. “Floridians are entitled to know clearly and concisely what they are voting for or against.”

Oral arguments over the matter are scheduled for Feb. 7.

While there is no universal consensus on the matter, clinicians in the context of abortion generally place “viability” — when a fetus, if delivered, can survive outside the womb — at 24 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

If the Florida Supreme Court approves the language — an uncertain outcome, since Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed five of the seven Justices — it could boost Democratic voter turnout as it did in Ohio, where voters this past November enshrined abortion access through similar ballot language.

DeSantis fretted about the power of reproductive rights amendments on the presidential campaign trail before he left the race, saying they were “loaded for bear,”

“But they’re trying to get on the ballot to do a constitutional amendment in Florida and they would need 60% not 50. But the reality is it’s a very big expensive state to be able to advertise in and I guarantee you the other side would come loaded for bear,” DeSantis warned on Saturday night.

The Governor’s comments, made at the Pulse ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Christmas Gala in Iowa, went on to address how all the money in the Buckeye State went the wrong way on this issue.

“So you have a situation where on these referenda, you have so much money flowing in to promote it and then the media is 95% in favor of those,” DeSantis said, lamenting an “imbalance” that affects “the information flow that these voters are getting.”

The Governor blames “Republicans that are you know, supposed to be promoting culture of life and everything, but if you look a lot of these business guys, these Wall Street guys, they are not pro life.”

“And so they may support Republicans because they want lower taxes, but they’re more apt to give to the other side when it comes to something like this. So I do think we’ve got a structural problem when it comes to these referenda,” DeSantis said.

Meanwhile, the state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference is less willing to hazard a guess as to how the amendment would affect the budget given what chief economist Amy Baker calls “a bunch of permutations that will make it a challenge” to score the proposal.

Staff Reports


6 comments

  • William Patterson

    January 27, 2024 at 9:10 am

    Two wolves and one sheep vote on what to have for dinner.

  • Michael K

    January 27, 2024 at 9:23 am

    No matter how the people vote, the Republican legislators will find a way to ignore and subvert the will of voters by claiming “confusion.”

    • Dont Say FLA

      January 29, 2024 at 8:09 am

      Truth. The medically meddling Republi-bans won’t be having any of that will of the people nonsense. If they can shut it down, they will shut it down. That’s the American way, according to Today’s G0P.

  • Dale A Arnold

    January 27, 2024 at 10:04 am

    Yep.. they have been saying the Republicans are the party of small Government for years!
    They now want it sooo small that it can fit right between a woman and her Doctor, people and their life choices, parents and their children’s choices about social media!

    • Dont Say FLA

      January 29, 2024 at 8:14 am

      The Republi-ban party is the party of the small minded. It explains their fetus obsession.

      GOP is scheming to lower the working age because the next item on their agenda is that they want fetal suffrage.

      Fetuses will soon be the only ones left who are gullible and brainless enough to vote G0P.

      Old enough to work = old enough to vote = old enough for Matt Gaetz = , in the G0P’s grand plan, = fetus

  • Jojo

    January 29, 2024 at 9:18 am

    Ashly moody is nothing but a DeSantes sycophant.
    Of course she’s going to say that the wording on the ballot was confusing. Well guess what Ashly… 910,946 voters weren’t at all confused

Comments are closed.


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