Florida Clears Hurdle to Vote on Abortion Amendment. What’s next?

This article was written by Gainesville-based reproductive rights activists working on the abortion petition initiative.

Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF), the sponsor of the Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion has submitted almost 1.5 million petitions to Florida Supervisors of Elections. At the time of writing, more than 911,619 petitions have been verified statewide, and 17 Congressional districts have met the required total of verified petitions equaling 8% the number of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election. That means we’ve cleared the biggest hurdle to put a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights on the ballot in Florida in 2024! Now we need your help to get over the finish line!

What’s next? Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd has to certify by February 1 that we have satisfied the requirements to put the amendment on the ballot. Floridians Protecting Freedom has overshot the requirements. The current number of validated petitions already exceeds the required 891,523 and will continue to grow. The required number of Congressional districts reaching the threshold is 14; as many as 20 districts may pass the threshold. However, we must mail all remaining petitions to the address on the form immediately. We’re also awaiting the Florida Supreme Court ruling, due by April 1, on whether the amendment language is clear and pertains to a single subject – more on that below.

If these two remaining procedural hurdles are cleared and this amendment is on the ballot, we will still need a large grassroots effort to ensure 60% of voters vote YES in November. We need your help to spread the word of the amendment, help people register to vote and sign up, and crucially, re-sign up for Vote-by-Mail. A new law requires all voters to sign up for Vote-by-Mail again to vote using the postal service in 2024, even if they’ve voted by mail in previous elections. We will need to get out the vote, though the initiative is not itself a get-out-the-vote effort. It is non-partisan and must remain so. We must also drive donations to FPF.Please find an organization and plug in to win this fight and build a strong movement for reproductive justice.

You may have heard of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s legal challenge to the amendment language, writing in an op-ed, “I am pro-life, unabashedly so…But my decision to oppose the placement of Floridians Protecting Freedom, Inc.’s initiative on the ballot has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion.” Moody’s opposition has not caused Florida’s highest court to consider the language; that is a requirement triggered months ago, when FPF passed a petition submission threshold.The AG’s complaint revolves around the word ‘viability’, which is well-understood in political contexts. This is the ballot summary text:

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. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion.

Is that unclear to you? This single-subject requirement is the impetus for the second sentence; it is not a reflection of FPF’s, its partners’, nor its volunteers’ political beliefs on pregnant minors needing to notify their parents before having an abortion; we cannot address both issues with a single amendment. Lawyers have worked to ensure the language is upheld by the Supreme Court. Do not fret, and understand that nothing is to be done regarding the Court ruling. It is of the utmost importance that no person protest, obstruct, or interfere with the Florida Supreme Court’s oral arguments scheduled for February 7th at 9 AM. We will just watch, as FPF will host an online watch party.

The AG’s complaint ultimately may confuse voters, but we’ve prepared. Having spent eight months answering hundreds of questions and liaising with the campaign, we will continue to educate voters on the initiative. We will continue answering FAQs similar to the ones in the Iguana’s November-December issue.

You are reading an article written and submitted to a newspaper by concerned citizens. If you are an abortion provider, lawyer who can speak to legal aspects of this initiative, or a person who has had or may have an abortion, or has been or may be impacted by abortion bans, these concerned citizens would love for others to read the article you could write.

While we celebrate having collected enough petitions to put #abortionontheballot, we still need voters to vote YES. Seven states have voted to protect abortion rights since Dobbs, and consistent polling shows that Florida can join. Of 12 states voting on abortion rights this year, Florida is the most critical, so please vote! Again, all Floridians must sign up again to vote by mail in 2024. Vote-by-Mail and address updates are especially important in Gainesville. The process is simple but we need more help! Please join up with a local social justice organization and help us win this fight!

People can visit https://floridiansprotectingfreedom.com/ to learn more, sign up to volunteer, and donate to the campaign.

People can visit https://dos.fl.gov/elections/for-voters/voting/vote-by-mail/ to sign up for or learn more about Vote-by-Mail.

People can visit flfree.link/watch to register for FPF’s oral arguments watch party.

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