Sep 8, 2023 - News

Florida abortion ballot initiative hits threshold for state Supreme Court review

Illustration of a caduceus over a divided red and blue background with elements of ballots.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Floridians Protecting Freedom, a coalition aiming to put abortion access on next year's ballot, reached the signature threshold needed to trigger a state Supreme Court review of the ballot question's language.

Yes, but: The group needs more than 800,000 signatures by February to get it in front of voters in 2024.

Why it matters: The high court hears oral arguments Friday about the state's 15-week ban. If the conservative-leaning court upholds the ban, the ballot question could be one of the few avenues advocates have of restoring access to the procedure.

State of play: The state has validated nearly 300,000 signatures of the required 891,523 to put the amendment on the ballot. The coalition said they have collected hundreds of thousands more but those still need to be verified.

Details: The amendment 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 healthcare provider."

  • Fetal viability is generally around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, according to the National Library of Medicine. The amendment doesn't impact requirements that parents be notified before a minor has an abortion.

Reality check: Even if the court approves the ballot language and Floridians Protecting Freedom hits the signature threshold, the effort would still need support from 60% of voters to succeed.

Between the lines: McKenna Kelley, a Tampa Bay Abortion Fund board member, told Axios that should the court uphold the ban, it could pose a "massive drain" on the group's resources.

  • "We're already working day in and day out to get people access to abortion as close to home as possible," she said.

Zoom out: Other states β€” like California and Vermont, but also red states, like Kentucky and Kansas β€” have voted in support of abortion access.

  • Polls since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade have consistently shown that most Americans believe abortion should be legal.

What they're saying: "Voters have spoken out in support of access and keeping the government out of our private lives," Lauren Brenzel, Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director, said in a statement.

  • "Our amendment will qualify for the ballot, and come next November, Floridians will add their voices to the chorus of support across the country," she added.

The other side: Gov. Ron DeSantis touted the state's commitment to the pro-life movement when he signed a six-week abortion ban in April. "We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida," he said.

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