florida is one step closer to getting a pro choice amendment on the 2024 ballot

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Abortion rights advocates in Florida have officially collected enough signatures to put a pro-choice amendment on the ballot in November.

The state’s Division of Elections reported that the petition to put abortion on the ballot has received 911,029 verified signatures, as of Friday morning. The state requires 891,523 signatures for an amendment — a big hurdle in Florida, which has seen some of the most high-profile abortion battles since the Supreme Court repealed federal protections in 2022.

The amendment seeks to guarantee access to abortion care up to fetal viability, which is usually around 24 weeks. Although hitting the threshold is a big milestone, the state Supreme Court ― known to lean conservative ― still has to sign off on the wording of the proposed ballot initiative.

“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,” the amendment states. As of now, the amendment clarifies that it would not change the state’s current law that requires parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion.

Abortion rights advocates celebrated the win on Friday, knowing it’s a critical step in a highly contentious abortion battle that’s been ongoing in the state.

“The fact that we only launched our campaign only 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,” Lauren Brenzel, campaign director of Floridians Protecting Freedom, said during a Friday afternoon press conference. Floridians Protecting Freedom is a coalition of statewide organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, that’s sponsoring the amendment.

“Most initiative campaigns never make it this far,” Brenzel added. “The ones that do usually spend far more or take much longer to qualify, which is why we’re so confident that voters will approve our amendment once they’re given a chance to vote.”

The Florida Supreme Court has scheduled a Feb. 7 hearing on the ballot proposal. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and other anti-choice advocates are fighting the initiative, claiming that the amendment is misleading — a tactic used by Republicans in several other states that have since passed pro-choice ballot initiatives. Moody has filed briefs arguing that the term “viability” is ambiguous.

Helene Barthelemay, an attorney defending the petition in the upcoming arguments before the Florida Supreme Court, refuted that the term is ambiguous, pointing out that the proposed amendment uses the same definition of viability as the state of Florida and the federal government.

Faith Halstead chants along with other protesters and activists near the Florida State Capitol where Florida State Senators voted to pass a proposed six-week abortion ban in Tallahassee on April 3, 2023.

Faith Halstead chants along with other protesters and activists near the Florida State Capitol where Florida State Senators voted to pass a proposed six-week abortion ban in Tallahassee on April 3, 2023.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

“It’s clear to us that the attorney general’s position is a disingenuous argument by a politician desperate to block Floridians from voting on this amendment,” Barthelemay told reporters on Friday. “It’s ironic because the reason this amendment has such strong support is precisely because Floridians don’t want this kind of political interference in their private lives and their personal decisions.”

“The truth is voters know what viability means and they will see right through this effort to silence their voice and vote to approve this amendment in November.”

Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban in effect, which was championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), an extreme abortion opponent. DeSantis, who is also in the running to be the Republican presidential candidate, signed a six-week abortion ban into law last year, but it will not go into effect until the state Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the current 15-week restriction.

The idea of a ballot initiative has been in the works since the end of 2022, after Roe v. Wade fell and DeSantis swiftly passed a 15-week abortion ban. Pro-choice amendments have won out in every state where abortion was on the ballot since 2022, including in red and purple states like Kentucky and Ohio.

“Signatures came from everyone and everywhere, proving once again this is not a Republican or Democratic issue — it’s about freedom, healthcare, and safety,” state Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book tweeted on Friday. “No woman and no doctor should fear imprisonment over abortion care. No woman or mother should face death because she can’t get proper care. That’s what this fight is about, and that’s why we will win.”

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