Home News Florida court puts abortion rights referendum on ballot

Florida court puts abortion rights referendum on ballot

The Florida Supreme Court was expected to rule Monday on whether an abortion rights referendum will appear on the November ballot, which could juice turnout and increase the chances for an upset in the Republican-trending state.

The conservative-dominated court said it planned to release a ruling on whether voters will get to weigh in on the pro-choice ballot measure at the same time as they decide between President Biden and former President Donald Trump, who is a heavy favorite to carry his home state.

The so-called Amendment Four would effectively overturn Florida’s current law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and another bill backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that would bar the practice after six weeks, when many women are not even aware they are pregnant.

The proposed ballot measure says Sunshine State voters want to “limit government interference with abortion” and says no Florida law may “prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion” before the fetus can survive outside the womb or when necessary to protect the mother’s health.

The referendum would need the support of 60% of Florida voters to pass. That’s a tough lift in a state that has shifted dramatically to the right in the Trump era, but supporters point to polls that show large majorities of Americans support leaving abortion to a woman and her doctor.

The standard for allowing abortion that appears in the proposed referendum is similar to the benchmark that was the law of the land nationwide for nearly a half-century until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 2022.

A pro-choice group collected nearly 1 million signatures to get the measure on the November election ballot. Anti-abortion groups and DeSantis oppose the effort.

Democrats believe getting the referendum on the ballot will energize their pro-choice base and could give them a chance to upset Trump and maybe Sen. Rick Scott, who is also a heavy favorite to win reelection over Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a former Miami congresswoman.

It could also help Team Blue chip away at GOP domination of the state’s heavily gerrymandered congressional delegation and state houses.

Abortion rights has been a can’t-miss boon for Democrats ever since the high court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Ballot measures protecting abortion rights have passed in red states like Ohio and Kansas and pundits credit the issue with blunting a much-hyped GOP red wave in 2022.

The state supreme court’s ruling will focus narrowly on whether the proposed wording of the referendum properly summarizes its legal impact.

The Florida Supreme Court said it will also issue a similar ruling Monday on a proposed ballot measure that would legalize recreational use and possession of marijuana.

The top court is separately considering a long-running suit aimed at overturning the state’s current 15-week abortion ban. If and when it upholds that ban, the new stricter six-week ban will automatically go into effect, which could stoke more anger among women and pro-choice voters.


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