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FL Abortion Rights Organizers Have 1.4 Million Signatures for Ballot Initiative

Many hurdles could still derail the initiative, even though it is backed by most Floridians, including Republicans.

Demonstrators march in the rain during an abortion rights rally in downtown Orlando, Florida, on June 27, 2022.

A signature drive to place a proposed constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights on the 2024 statewide ballot in Florida has far surpassed the number of names required.

Floridians Protecting Freedom, the organization leading the initiative, has collected over 1.4 million signatures for the abortion amendment proposal as of this week. In order to be considered for placement on the November 5, 2024, ballot, the signature drive needed at least 891,523 signatures.

A recent report from the Florida Division of Elections stated that it has received only around 687,000 signatures so far. However, that number is based on the petitions from the organization and its allies that the division has already processed, and Floridians Protecting Freedom says that more than double that amount have been submitted.

The organization is required to submit the necessary amount of signatures by February 1, 2024. Collecting this many signatures so quickly indicates strong support for the measure.

“This is going to be on the ballot. Unless the Florida Supreme Court discounts it, this is headed for the ballot,” a source from the group told The Messenger.

In addition to the 891,523 signatures needed, at least half of the state’s congressional districts need to meet a threshold of 8 percent of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election, which will likely not be a problem for the signature drive.

Complicating matters is the fact that any constitutional amendment in Florida needs to secure a 60 percent threshold to pass in an election. If the amendment makes it on the ballot, it will likely be a close race; a recent University of North Florida poll published last month found that 62 percent of respondents said they would vote “yes” on the measure, including 53 percent of Republican respondents.

The biggest hurdle facing the ballot initiative is state Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has already filed a legal brief challenging the language of the amendment.

The text of the proposed 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.

“Viability” is generally understood to be between 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, which was the standard for abortion law for several decades before the federal Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. But despite viability standards being well-established, Moody has claimed that the term is too confusing and ambiguous to be included in the ballot initiative.

Moody claimed in her filing that viability could refer to any pregnancy that would last to term, if not for any outside factors — a standard that is rejected by most physicians.

Voters could “understand ‘viability’ in the more traditional clinical sense — as referring to a pregnancy that, but for an abortion or other misfortune, will result in the child’s live birth,” Moody asserted in her legal brief.

Despite Moody’s attempts to derail the abortion amendment proposal, and despite the fact that anti-abortion Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appointed five of the seven state Supreme Court justices who will decide on the matter, organizers are confident that the abortion measure will be included on the 2024 ballot.

“I think alienating a million and a half active engaged voters across the political spectrum would be an unwise thing for conservatives in Florida to do,” said Anna Hochkammer, executive director of the Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition. “I think it would damage individual candidates and their overall prospects in 2024.”

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