Florida abortion effort reaches milestone in voter outreach

 A petition to enshrine abortion rights in the Florida constitution received the required amount of verified signatures on Friday to qualify for the 2024 ballot, authorities said.

The Florida Division of Elections reports surpassing the 891,500 petition signatures needed to place a ballot proposal before voters with over 911,000 validated.

The third-most populous U.S. state may join other states in selecting what abortion rights or limits should be in place if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 if the issue makes it on the autumn ballot.

The Dobbs ruling reversed the 1973 judgment that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide, and at least seven states have passed ballot initiatives safeguarding abortion rights or rejecting restrictions. Maryland and New York have accessibility-protecting constitutional amendments on their 2024 ballots.

We know what will happen if reproductive rights make it onto the ballot in 2024 — just like in every other state since Dobbs, Florida voters will choose to keep the government out of their health care decisions,” stated Florida Democratic Party head Nikki Fried.

The proposal would legalize abortions in Florida until the patient's doctor deems the fetus viable. The amendment needs 60% voter support to pass if it gets the ballot.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says abortion rights supporters and opponents define viability differently. She said the disparities and the omission to define “health” and “health-care provider” are enough to confuse voters and raise legal issues.

The Republican attorney general has requested the state Supreme Court to keep the item off the ballot, claiming proponents are conducting “a war” to defend the practice and would attempt to expand those rights in future years. The court will debate ballot wording approval on Feb. 7. A court is challenging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' 15-week abortion ban from last year.

If the Supreme Court upholds the law—DeSantis nominated five of the seven justices—a statute he passed this year will restrict abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. DeSantis, a presidential candidate, supports a nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks.

Because Florida has always been a sanctuary for southern women seeking abortions, any shift in abortion availability would be noticed elsewhere. Nearby Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi restrict abortion at all stages, while Georgia forbids abortion when heart activity is found.

Watch this space for further developments.