Apr 10, 2024 - News

Why Miami's Latino population could swing Florida's abortion vote

People hold placards as they protest against Florida's 15-week abortion ban in front of the office of State Senator Ileana Garcia in Coral Gables, Florida, on January 21, 2022.

People protest the 15-week state abortion ban in front of the office of Florida Senator Ileana Garcia. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Even as Miami-Dade County has shifted right in recent years, support for abortion rights has remained resilient among its majority Latino population, despite the group's strong religious views and typically conservative politics.

Why it matters: Where South Florida's Latino population stands on the issue could be vital to the outcome of November's referendum that would enshrine a person's right to an abortion in the state constitution.

  • 68% of U.S. Latinos oppose abortion bans, in line with what they've said about the issue since June 2022, according to a new Axios-Ipsos Latino Poll in partnership with Noticias Telemundo.

Catch up fast: Last week, Florida's high court paved the way for a near-total abortion ban to take effect May 1, while also allowing voters to decide in November whether to allow access to abortion until fetal viability.

The big picture: While abortion rights have won in every state where they've appeared on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the issue resonates with South Florida voters for reasons unique to the region's cultural influences, experts tell Axios.

Zoom in: Many residents emigrated from or have connections to deeply religious countries that have decriminalized abortion in recent years including Cuba, Colombia and Mexico.

What they're saying: "We Latinos believe [the decision to terminate a pregnancy] is a familial one, not a personal one," Paula Ávila-Guillén, executive director of Women's Equality Center, tells Axios.

  • That contrasts with the reasoning behind Roe, which centered on a person's right to privacy. That sentiment "didn't play" in Latin America, Ávila-Guillén says.
  • Instead, the argument for abortion rights centered on public health issues.

Between the lines: While the Latino population in general is more conservative, "they've just lived through total abortion bans [and] they know what happens when access is criminalized," Ávila-Guillén says.

The intrigue: In advocating for the abortion measure, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice is framing the issue around government interference and centering stories of immigrants.

  • Charo Valero, the organization's Florida state manager, says the institute is learning from the Green Wave movement, which led to expanded abortion rights throughout Latin America.

Flashback: Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Miami Republican, joined Democrats in opposing the six-week ban when it passed last year, despite her pro-life beliefs.

  • While campaigning, she told her constituency she supported the 15-week ban, as well as exceptions for rape and incest.

Zoom out: In the wake of last week's rulings, President Biden's campaign and other key Democrats hastily mobilized, sensing an opportunity to compete up and down the ballot as they have in other states with abortion referenda.

Yes, but: Floridians have a track record of voting in favor of progressive seeming ballot measures while also voting for conservative politicians.

  • In 2016, voters supported medical marijuana, and in 2018, they backed restoring the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. But no blue wave materialized in either election.

The bottom line: Valero, of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, says politicizing the issue could harm the referendum's chances among Latino voters.

  • "This ballot initiative is an attempt to curtail a public health crisis," she says. "We're talking about government interference."

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