How you can get abortion rights on the ballot in Florida

Image via Shutterstock

By Giselle Balido

November 21, 2023

Supporters of reproductive freedom are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would let Florida voters—not politicians—decide the state’s abortion laws during the November 2024 elections.

Millions of Florida women could be weeks away from losing their reproductive freedom, as the state Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union that challenges the 15-week abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. 

If DeSantis’ hand-picked justices sign off on the 15-week ban, a six-week ban signed into law by DeSantis this year would go into effect 30 days later. Such a ban would cut off access to abortion early in the first trimester, before many women even know they’re pregnant. Most alarmingly, the six-week ban would result in felony charges for “any person who willfully performs or actively participates in a termination of pregnancy.”

RELATED: Florida Latinas Would Suffer Under DeSantis’ Abortion Bans, Report Finds

“The imprisonment of women, girls, sexual assault survivors, and their doctors through dangerous abortion bans is cruel and anti-freedom,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said before the state Senate in September, when she introduced Senate Bill 34 to make sure women and girls in Florida will not be prosecuted for seeking an abortion if DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban goes into effect.

A Call to Action

Anticipating that the ban is likely to go into effect, a group of reproductive rights advocates are working on an effort to try and enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF), a statewide coalition working to protect Floridians’ access to abortion, is collecting signatures to put abortion rights on the ballot for the November 2024 election. The group’s citizen-led ballot initiative would “ensure that Floridians, not politicians, are able to decide what is best for their own lives and bodies.”  

The “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” seeks to create a constitutional amendment that would protect Floridians’ freedom to access abortion, stating 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. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.”

RELATED: Florida Democrat Introduces Bill to Protect Abortion Seekers from Criminal Charges

A significant majority of Florida voters support abortion being legal in most or all cases, according to polling, with a whopping 75% of voters opposing DeSantis’ six-week ban, according to a 2023 poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab.

Voters who oppose DeSantis’ ban and want to get the chance to vote on abortion rights in Florida, can sign Floridians Protecting Freedom’s petition as well as volunteer to collect petitions from other people. Answers to questions about the proposed ballot measure can be found HERE

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVFL), a non-partisan civic organization, is optimistic that Floridians will push back against DeSantis’ extreme far-right agenda to ensure access to reproductive rights across the state:

“In every state where abortion access and reproductive freedom has been put on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly approved those measures,” the group wrote on X (formerly Twitter). 

To sign and submit a petition, spread the word, or help in gathering petitions through the LWVFL, click HERE

Florida Republicans Want to Prevent Voters From Deciding

If the petition drive collects enough verified signatures and the “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” is ultimately approved for the ballot, it would require 60% of Florida voters to approve it to pass.

But it Florida Attorney General and DeSantis ally Ashley Moody has her way, voters may not get the chance to weigh in on the issue.

Sensing that popular opinion is against her party on the issue, Moody—who strongly opposes abortion rights—is trying to prevent the proposed amendment from even reaching voters’ ballots next fall, asking the state Supreme Court to block it, arguing the term “viability” is confusing to voters and could “hoodwink” those who secretly oppose abortion rights into voting to support them.

In a legal brief filed to respond to Moody, Floridians Protecting Freedom attacked her claims, arguing that Florida residents have lived for several decades with an understanding of what viability means, since it was the standard in national abortion law up until the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.

“Nothing about the meaning of the term ‘viability’ in the phrase ‘abortion before viability’ is ambiguous or misleading here: It has a well-understood, commonly accepted meaning amongst the general public that accords with its legal significance,” the organization wrote in its filing. “Indeed, for more than four decades, Florida law’s understanding of viability has reflected its common meaning. The popular meaning of viability was first adopted in Florida statutes in 1979 … and has remained consistent for the past 40 years.”

Despite Moody’s efforts, reproductive rights advocates and Democrats remain confident they will be able to place the issue of abortion rights before voters next November.

“We will win this latest challenge, we will put abortion rights on the ballot, and voters will choose to restore women’s rights,” Leader Book said in October. “At the end of the day, Florida’s ban on women’s fundamental rights is dangerous, unpopular, and wrong.” 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This