- abortion rights amendment
- Amendment 4
- Anabely Lopes
- Anna Paulina Luna
- Anya Cook
- Ashley Moody
- Deborah Dorbert
- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
- Florida Supreme Court
- Florida’s 13th Congressional District
- John Liccione
- Mark Weinkrantz
- Peter Owen
- Sabrina Bousbar
- Shanae Smith-Cunningham
- Tony D'Arrigo
- Whitney Fox
Whitney Fox, a Democrat running for Florida’s 13th Congressional District in hopes of unseating incumbent Republican Anna Paulina Luna, is fired up about reproductive freedom, and she’s warning voters that if it can be taken away, what’s next?
Sitting in her car, Fox delivered a monologue on the status of voter efforts to place a constitutional amendment on Florida’s ballot seeking to protect reproductive freedom.
At issue is proposed Amendment 4, the Floridians Protecting Freedom amendment that, if approved, will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters to codify abortion rights into the state constitution. It would bar restrictions on abortion up to the point of fetal viability, generally considered to be at about the 24th week of gestation.
The word “viability” drew ire from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the ballot language and block it from appearing before voters in November. She argues different people have different definitions of what viability means during pregnancy, and therefore the language is confusing to voters. She called the amendment an attempt to “hoodwink” voters.
But supporters, like Fox, argue the amendment is necessary to stem attacks on reproductive freedom. Florida lawmakers have passed two anti-abortion laws — one banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy and the other at six weeks. The 15-week ban is currently being challenged and, if the court upholds the law, the six-week ban would automatically go into effect.
“This initiative is the will of the people,” Fox said, noting that amendment backers collected nearly 1 million verified signatures, more than enough to place the question on the 2024 ballot.
Fox said the support comes from both men and women, and that signatories on the ballot initiative span political parties.
“Why? Because attacks on our freedoms are bigger than political parties,” she said. “And if we don’t stop these attacks now, there’s no telling what they’ll try to take away next.”
Fox called the 15-week and six-week bans “absurd.”
“And what’s even more terrifying is extremists like Anna Paulina Luna want to strip away our freedoms nationwide with a national abortion ban that would outlaw abortion even in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother,” Fox continued.
“This isn’t about politics. This is about my daughters, your daughters, our families and our future. Stripping away freedoms and endangering women’s lives for political gain shows just how broken our system is.”
Fox said that’s why she’s running for Congress, adding that she “will always stand up for you, your rights and your freedoms.”
The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing arguments in the ballot language case. The conservative court has until April 1 to make a decision.
In the meantime, supporters are moving forward with their campaign. The pro-Amendment 4 website features stories from various women who suffered devastating pregnancy losses resulting from preterm labor or fetal abnormalities that made the pregnancies not viable. In the three examples, all of the women wanted the pregnancies, and all were forced to make difficult decisions because of Florida’s restrictions.
One story centers on two friends, Anya Cook and Shanae Smith-Cunningham, who both had their waters break before fetal viability, meaning there was no chance their babies would survive. But doctors told both they were unable to induce labor to end the pregnancies. In the case of Cook, she delivered her dead fetus alone in a bathroom at work, and nearly died from blood loss.
Another woman, Deborah Dorbert, learned that her pregnancy was not viable due to the fetal diagnosis of Potter’s syndrome, a terminal fetal illness that causes a lack of amniotic fluid and kidney failure. Doctors and their lawyers, fearful of running afoul of Florida law, declined to terminate Dorbert’s pregnancy, leaving her and her family to wait an agonizing more than three months to deliver a baby that would not live.
Similarly, Anabely Lopes learned at 15 weeks into her wanted pregnancy that her baby had Trisomy 18, a condition that results in the death of the fetus in utero or within five to 15 days after birth. Due to Florida’s law, Lopes had to travel to Washington to obtain the care she needed.
Luna’s campaign platform doesn’t mention abortion, but her bio talks about her mother’s decision to have her, despite her father’s insistence that her mother receive an abortion.
Luna’s platform does include reference to “medical freedom,” but that is in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she notes “people should decide for themselves” how to protect themselves from the virus and that “everyone should talk to their doctor and decide what is best for themselves and their families.”
In late December, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a press release announcing “bad news” for Luna, noting that more than 150,000 Republicans signed the abortion rights amendment petition.
Fox is not the only Democrat hoping to unseat Luna from the now-red district (reapportionment shifted district boundaries north, giving the GOP a voter registration advantage after Democrats had enjoyed a slight advantage during the Charlie Crist years). Five others have also entered the race — Sabrina Bousbar, Tony D’Arrigo, John Liccione, Peter Owen and Mark Weinkrantz.
Bousbar and D’Arrigo have not yet filed financial reports, having entered the race after fourth quarter financials were due. But of the others, Fox has by far led the money race, with more than $200,000 raised. Weinkrantz follows with nearly $44,000, much of that his own money. Liccione has raised just over $24,000 while Owen has banked just $110, meaning he is likely not a viable candidate.
Luna will be difficult to topple. In addition to the voter registration advantage her party enjoys in the district, Luna also has a significant money advantage, with more than $1.1 million raised and, of that, nearly $550,000 remaining on hand.