Ohio votes to protect abortion access — will Florida be next?

Abortion rights groups in Florida hope to see a similar victory for abortion access in the Sunshine State next November.

click to enlarge Ohio votes to protect abortion access — will Florida be next?
Photo by Matt Keller Lehman
Abortion rights groups in Florida are celebrating a resounding show of support by Ohio voters to establish their right to abortion, and hope that Florida could be next during next year’s elections.

“Ohioans just demonstrated that they don’t support politicians interfering in their private medical decisions, and Floridians are even more bold in their opposition to government interference in our private lives,” said Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, in a statement Tuesday night.

Floridians Protecting Freedom, a political committee and coalition of abortion rights advocacy groups, launched a campaign in May to amend Florida’s state constitution to protect abortion access up to fetal viability, or roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy. The constitutional amendment, aimed at limiting government interference in reproductive healthcare decisions, would be subject to voter approval, and could make it onto the statewide ballot next November if the campaign collects enough signatures (nearly 900,000) from Floridians in support that can be verified by the state.

Ohio voters approved a similar amendment to their own state constitution Tuesday with over 56% of support as of Wednesday morning that establishes a right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including abortion, up to fetal viability.

The term “fetal viability” itself has become a highly politicized term that anti-abortion Republicans, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, have weaponized in order to obstruct abortion rights initiatives.

Abortion bans are so unpopular that anti-abortion activists have also resorted to peddling transphobic conspiracy theories in states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to trick voters.

“Tonight’s victory in Ohio only strengthens our resolve to return the freedom to make decisions about abortion to the people of Florida, where it belongs,” said Brenzel.

The victory for abortion rights groups in Ohio continues a winning streak for advocates who’ve organized to protect abortion access following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last year. Last November, abortion rights groups won in all six states with abortion measures on the ballot, including red states like Kansas, Montana and Kentucky.

The state of Florida, once considered a “purple” swing state, has turned redder in recent years, a shift in part attributed to population movement during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have a solid voter registration edge in the state, but it’s unclear whether that will actually dampen support for an initiative to protect Floridians’ abortion access.

About 75% of registered Florida voters polled in March said they opposed a six-week abortion ban with no exceptions for incest or rape. Over 90% of Democrats said they somewhat or strongly opposed such a ban, but so did 61% of polled Republicans and 73% of no-party voters.

Abortion access in Florida is currently caught up in the courts. Last year, Florida Republicans passed a 15-week abortion ban and abortion rights groups sued.

While Republican lawmakers and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed an even more restrictive six-week abortion ban earlier this year, whether it goes into effect is contingent upon whether the state Supreme Court upholds the 15-week ban. If it does, the six-week ban will go into effect 30 days after.

Florida is a haven for abortion access in the southern region of the United States, since all neighboring states have either full abortion bans or more restrictive abortion limits in effect. Florida Democrats have filed bills for consideration in January that seek to decriminalize abortion-seeking, crack down on fake abortion clinics and prohibit protesting outside of real ones.

The abortion rights ballot initiative campaign in Florida needs at least 891,523 valid signatures of support by Feb. 1, 2024, to get on the November 2024 ballot. So far, nearly 500,000 signatures have been validated by the state

Unlike Ohio, which has a 50% threshold for the level of voter support needed for an amendment to pass, the Florida initiative would need at least 60% voter approval to take effect.

Earlier this year, Ohio residents rejected an attempt by Republicans to raise their own threshold to 60%. Florida voters approved the 60% threshold in 2006, ironically with just 57% of voters in support of it at the time.

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About The Author

McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
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