The right to abortion is a winning issue — precisely why anti-choice politicians are actively working to thwart voter initiatives.
Elections in states such as Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Michigan, California and Vermont have shown us that voters overwhelmingly support abortion. It’s no surprise therefore that Florida provides yet another example of anti-democratic machinations, demonstrating why secular voters need to defend abortion at the ballot box.
Currently, abortion is only legal in Florida up to 15 weeks of gestation. This 15-week ban went into effect over a year ago and has had drastic consequences. Countless pregnant Floridians must now travel lengthy distances to access abortion. In fact, new data found that out-of-state abortions have risen nearly 25 percent in one year.
Due to abortion being virtually banned throughout the South, the “nearest” abortion clinics for Floridians are in Illinois, New Mexico or Virginia. Such travel distances are prohibitively costly, especially for the most marginalized. As such, an untold amount of pregnant people are being forced to continue unwanted pregnancies.
And it will likely get even worse. The Florida Supreme Court is in the process of determining whether or not the 15-week abortion ban is constitutional. If the conservative court rules that it is constitutional, a six-week ban that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last April will go into effect 30 days later.
Abortion advocates are rightfully gathering signatures to bring about a ballot initiative to protect abortion access in the Sunshine State. Last May, Floridians Protecting Freedom formed to add an amendment to Florida Constitution on the 2024 general election ballot. This would repeal the six- and 15-week abortion bans.
To date, the group has already garnered 700,000 of the required 891,523 signatures. But the future remains uncertain. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has already told the state Supreme Court that she will oppose putting the amendment on next year’s election ballot.
To be clear, a review of amendment proposals is required by the Florida Supreme Court. The court is allowed to deny voter initiatives if they determine that the language is too confusing. Floridians Protecting Freedom’s simple and clear initiative reads: “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 health care provider.” Yet Moody claims that the word “viability” is too confusing in the ballot language.
Last week, Moody filed an objection to the initiative. A few days later, she published an op-ed in which she wrote that the ballot language would confuse voters and that “viability” isn’t clearly defined. The concept of “viability” has become politicized by Christian nationalists. Prior to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the high court ruled that viability was until the fetus had the ability to survive outside of the womb, which they considered to be anywhere between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.
Medically speaking, it’s true that viability is complicated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that it is impossible to definitely declare viability and that there are some instances in which viability can never be attained regardless of gestational age. But that does not mean that terms such as “viability” are confusing, like Moody claims. Rather, it is open to interpretation because each pregnancy is unique; decisions should be made between the patient and the provider, not the government.
This is precisely why abortion bans of any kind are dangerous — they create broad assumptions based on junk science and religion. It is shocking but not surprising that anti-abortionists in Florida’s government are actively trying to deny ballot initiatives protecting abortion rights by questioning medical terminology like “viability.” As secular voters, we must stay educated and vigilant about how anti-choice politicians are using shady tactics to mask their Christian nationalist intentions.