A coalition of organizations that support abortion rights is planning to spend millions of dollars in an effort to place a measure protecting abortion rights on Florida’s ballot next year.
The initiative, first reported by Politico and confirmed by a representative for Planned Parenthood, aims to limit “government interference with abortion” before a fetus is considered viable — often around 24 weeks of pregnancy — “or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider,” according to the text of the proposed amendment.
It takes direct aim at a measure signed last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely presidential contender, that prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women do not know they are pregnant. The coalition of groups includes Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Planned Parenthood’s Florida affiliates, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Florida Rising and Women’s Voices of SW Florida.
It was not clear on Friday how much in total the coalition planned to spend. An announcement for the initiative is scheduled for Monday in Tallahassee.
The Political Impact: Potential motivation for liberals
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights emerged as one of the most galvanizing issues in American politics, for both liberal and moderate voters.
Last month, a liberal Wisconsin judge won a crucial State Supreme Court race by a significant margin after running on her support for abortion rights. During the midterm elections, voters across the ideological spectrum, from Kansas and Kentucky to Michigan and Pennsylvania, made clear that they opposed efforts to significantly restrict abortion rights.
If the issue is directly on the ballot in Florida — once a quintessential battleground state that has drifted further from Democratic reach — it could serve as a major motivator for liberal-leaning voters in a presidential election year.
At the same time, if Mr. DeSantis runs for president as expected, he has clear incentives to defend the six-week ban he signed. He has sought to make inroads with evangelical leaders and voters, who can be pivotal in a Republican primary.
With Republicans holding supermajorities in both houses of the Florida Legislature, a ballot initiative is the only way forward on abortion, said Cecile Scoon, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, which plans to support the initiative.
She pointed to polling that shows a majority of Floridians oppose a six-week ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, as well as to victories for supporters of abortion rights at the ballot box in generally conservative states.
“Regardless of the Confederate flag on their T-shirt or the MAGA hat on their head, a lot of people have concerns about the health of the women in their lives,” Ms. Scoon said.
What’s Next: An arduous signature-gathering process
Landing a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires hundreds of thousands of verified signatures from across Florida, no easy lift in a large state.
Since Mr. DeSantis took office in 2019, the Florida Legislature has passed a series of measures that advocates say make it more difficult to place initiatives on the ballot, including restrictions that raise the costs of gathering the required signatures.
And Mr. DeSantis, who has relished battling even with Disney, a powerful company with deep historical ties to his state, is hardly shy about using his office to clash with any perceived political adversary.
The State Supreme Court, which is dominated by Mr. DeSantis’s appointees, could also pose a roadblock. The court reviews proposed ballot initiatives and can block them if it rules that they violate either the U.S. Constitution or state requirements that ballot language be “unambiguous” and address only a single subject.
A representative for Mr. DeSantis did not immediately respond on Friday when asked for comment on the ballot initiative plans.
Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.
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