Florida initiative to enshrine abortion protections in state constitution collects enough signatures to appear on 2024 ballot News
Janni Rye, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Florida initiative to enshrine abortion protections in state constitution collects enough signatures to appear on 2024 ballot

The Florida Division of Elections released data Friday confirming that the group Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF) successfully gathered the required number of signatures to put an amendment on the Florida ballot to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution.

FPF Campaign Director Lauren Brenzel celebrated the milestone, stating, “The fact that we only launched our campaign eight months ago and we’ve already reached our petition goal speaks to the unprecedented support and momentum there is to get politicians out of our private lives and health care decisions.” Florida Governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who signed a six-week abortion ban into law in 2023, dismissed the ballot initiative, telling reporters, “I’m confident that something that’s very, very extreme is not going to be able to pass in Florida.”

The proposed amendment states:

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.

According to the Florida Constitution, state constitutional amendments must receive at least 60% of the vote during a ballot initiative to be enshrined into law.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has challenged the proposed amendment in the Florida Supreme Court, alleging that the measure’s language is “misleading” and “conceals the amendment’s potentially sweeping legal effects.” Moody also asserts that the proposed amendment fails to define key terms such as “viability” and “patient’s health.” Moody also argues that partial-birth abortion would continue to be illegal after viability due to conflicting federal law, and the amendment does not properly clarify this. Several groups, including the National Center for Life and Liberty, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and Florida Voters Against Extremism support Moody’s challenge.

FPF responded to the challenge, claiming that the amendment conforms to all state requirements and is not unclear or misleading, writing:

The Court withholds a proposed amendment from the voters only when it finds the amendment is clearly and conclusively defective, i.e., when it violates the single subject rule or its ballot title and summary affirmatively mislead voters. This amendment does neither. It is ready for a popular vote.

FPF is supported in the Florida Supreme Court by a group of former Republican Florida officials, a group of legal professors and educators and a group of Florida doctors. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also filed with the Florida Supreme Court, criticizing Moody’s use of the organization’s research to argue that the word “viability” in the amendment is “misleading,” with the group writing, “[t]he Attorney General’s assertion that voters will be misled by the ballot summary’s use of the word “viability” is belied by the decades of use of the term in connection with abortion legislation and jurisprudence.” The Florida Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the case on February 7.

Florida is only one of many states with upcoming or recently voted upon ballot initiatives surrounding the issue of abortion since the Supreme Court released its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, overturning its prior precedent, Roe v. Wade. In 2022, voters in California, Michigan, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont voted in favor of abortion access or against strict abortion restrictions. In 2023, abortion rights advocates in Arizona filed paperwork to include the issue on the November 2024 ballot, and Ohio voters voted in favor of enshrining abortion rights into the state’s constitution. A study from Care Post-Roe in 2023 alleged that abortion bans and restrictions across the US are causing healthcare delays and complications. According to the Guttmacher Institute, fifteen states currently have total or near total abortion bans.