Abortion Referendum in Florida: Potential Impact on Presidential Election

Florida may see an abortion referendum on the ballot in November, potentially influencing the presidential election and greatly impacting abortion access. On February 7th, abortion-rights activists gathered at Florida’s Supreme Court, advocating against political interference as judges deliberated allowing voters to decide on a ballot question regarding abortion rights in the state constitution.

Abortion Referendum in Florida: Potential Impact on Presidential Election

Although campaigners collected over a million signatures to qualify the initiative, the outcome remains uncertain.

This year, 13 states, including Florida, are considering ballot measures related to abortion, with particular attention on Arizona and Nevada. Democrats hope these initiatives will boost turnout in swing states. If successful, Florida's referendum would significantly affect abortion access, as it currently permits the procedure up to 15 weeks, making it a destination for women from nearby states with stricter laws.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law last April banning abortion after six weeks, pending court decisions, which is expected to take effect this year. However, if the proposed ballot initiative passes, it would establish a state right to abortion until viability, typically around 23 weeks, and thereafter if the mother's life and health are at risk.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022, seven states have held ballot initiatives on abortion rights, all favoring abortion rights. Florida's ballot initiative process is challenging, and approval by the state Supreme Court is crucial. However, the court, with a majority of judges appointed by DeSantis, holds conservative views on abortion.

The proposed amendment's language has raised concerns, with the attorney general arguing it understates its scope. Yet, abortion-rights campaigners reassure supporters, while court watchers remain cautious, giving the referendum even odds of appearing on the November ballot.

If it proceeds, the initiative will require significant support, as Florida mandates a 60% supermajority for ballot initiatives to succeed. This threshold poses a challenge, as no anti-abortion amendment in red or purple-leaning states has garnered over 60% support.

Even if passed, challenges to access abortion in Florida are expected to persist, as seen with previous ballot initiatives on voting rights for felons and medical marijuana, which faced subsequent restrictions by the state government. Therefore, the struggle over abortion access in Florida is likely to continue regardless of the referendum's outcome.

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Abdulkadir ŞEKER

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