“We need abortion to be explicitly named as a constitutionally protected right,” said one advocate for the amendment.
Florida’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, told the state Supreme Court that she will oppose the inclusion of a proposed amendment that would protect the right to an abortion on next year’s ballot. Moody has previously said that she is “unabashedly” against abortion.
“Ashley is clearly putting her personal politics ahead of her responsibility to Florida voters because she knows she has a losing argument,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried.
A group called Floridians Protecting Freedom, a statewide campaign of allied organizations working to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution — including Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida — has collected more than 400,000 of the nearly 900,000 voter signatures needed to put the abortion rights amendment on the ballot.
The number of signatures gathered by Floridians Protecting Freedom in support of the ballot initiative triggered a language review by the state’s conservative Supreme Court in September. The Supreme Court needs to greenlight the language of the ballot measure in order for it to be included on the 2024 ballot.
The abortion rights ballot initiative was spearheaded shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a six-week abortion ban into law. The enforcement of that law is presently suspended, pending a ruling by Florida’s conservative Supreme Court on a constitutional challenge to the state’s existing 15-week abortion ban.
“We need abortion to be explicitly named as a constitutionally protected right because until the makeup of the legislature changes, they are going to be constantly putting forward extremist anti-abortion legislation,” Amy Weintraub, a member of the group Progress Florida, told WUSF.
Conservatives in the state have organized opposition to the ballot initiative from its inception, claiming that the proposal’s language is vague and misleading. In a filing submitted to the state Supreme Court on Monday, Moody parroted those conservative talking points, arguing that the proposed ballot measure language “does not satisfy the legal requirements for ballot placement.”
“The Florida GOP continues to undermine the rights of Floridians to amend their constitution,” Fried said. “Ashley Moody’s argument is purposefully dishonest and ignores that Florida voters overwhelmingly favor protecting access to reproductive healthcare. Doctors should decide what’s best for their patients — not the government.”
Over the last five years, the Supreme Court of Florida has invalidated four out of nine citizen initiatives it examined. Abortion proponents worry that the conservative state Supreme Court, with the power to prevent an amendment from appearing on the ballot if it’s considered confusing to voters, might block the amendment from being included on next year’s ballot.
“We wanted to make sure that this language was as defensible as possible and that it met the standards that Florida set. We didn’t want to give anybody any reason to try to rule against this amendment,” Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, told WUSF.
If the abortion rights measure makes it onto the 2024 ballot and is approved by at least 60 percent of voters, it would protect the right to an abortion up to the point that a fetus can survive outside the womb.
“Every time abortion access has been on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned, voters have spoken out in support of access and keeping the government out of our private lives,” Brenzel said in a statement last month. “And we’re not just talking about places like Vermont and California, but also in states from Kansas to Kentucky. Our amendment will qualify for the ballot and, come next November, Floridians will add their voices to the chorus of support across the country for patients having control of their own lives, bodies and futures.”
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