Abortion-rights supports unveil effort to embed abortion access in the Florida Constitution
Abortion rights could be on the ballot in 2024.
A new group calling itself ‘Floridians Protecting Freedom’ announced a new citizen’s initiative Monday aimed at embedding abortion rights into the state constitution.
The push comes as the state could see abortion access rolled back to six weeks.
Should the State Supreme Court uphold Florida’s current 15-week ban, a law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis last month would automatically kick in and impose a six-week ban, but by placing protections into the state constitution all of that would be null and void.
Sarah Parker with Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida said the legislature has ignored the will of the voters during a press conference in Tallahassee where the ballot initiative was unveiled.
“We knew that they would not stop at a 15-week abortion ban. They have proven to us that they will not listen to their constituents. They do not care about patients. They do care about the trauma this will cause the people of Florida,” said Parker.
The initiative language would place language in the Florida Constitution barring any prohibition, penalty, delay, or restriction on abortion before ‘viability’ as determined by a healthcare provider.
Already, anti-abortion advocates like Andrew Shirvell with Florida Voice for the Unborn, are characterizing the proposal as ‘radical’.
Historically, ‘viability’ has been set at 24 weeks, but the amendment doesn’t specify a particular cutoff.
“I believe that the full effect would be abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy up to and including birth,” said Shirvell.
Groups backing the initiative will have to collect just shy of 900,000 signatures by February 1st to make the 2024 ballot.
That equates to roughly 3,300 signatures per day.
But supporters argue public opinion is on their side and they can achieve that goal in the coming months.
“This will ensure that no matter what happens, our freedom to make our choices for ourselves will not be interfered with by the government,” said Kara Gross with the Florida ACLU.
The first hurdle for the citizen initiative will be reaching roughly 222,000 signatures.
That will trigger a review by the Florida Supreme Court, which will either approve or reject the ballot language.
If approved and the initiative reaches the signatures required for ballot placement, 60% of Florida voters would have to vote yes in 2024 to place the amendment in the state constitution.
The process of gathering and verifying petition signatures is time-consuming and expensive. As an example, a political committee trying to put a measure on the 2024 ballot to legalize recreational marijuana had spent $30.35 million as of March 31, finance reports show.
While it appears increasingly likely that the recreational-marijuana proposal will meet the signature requirement — a state website showed nearly 787,000 valid signatures Monday — backers of the abortion initiative will have a far-shorter amount of time to collect and verify signatures.
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