A petition initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the Florida constitution on Friday reached the necessary number of verified signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot, officials said.
More than 911,000 signatures have been verified, according to the Florida Division of Elections, surpassing the more than 891,500 petition signatures required by the state to put a ballot initiative before voters.
If the measure ultimately makes it on the fall ballot, voters in the third-most populous U.S. state could join citizens of other states in deciding what, if any, abortion protections or restrictions there should be following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Since that landmark 1973 case giving constitutional protections for abortion across the United States was overturned in the Dobbs decision, voters in at least seven states have supported ballot measures protecting abortion rights or rejected measures aimed at limiting access. Constitutional amendments to protect access are already on the ballots for 2024 in Maryland and New York.
“We know what will happen if reproductive rights make it onto the ballot in 2024 — just like in every other state since Dobbs, Florida voters will choose to keep the government out of their health care decisions,” said Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
The proposed amendment would allow abortions in Florida to remain legal until the fetus is viable, as determined by the patient’s health care provider. If the amendment makes the ballot, it will need at least 60% voter approval to take effect.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says that abortion rights proponents and opponents have differing interpretations as to what viability means. Those differences along with the failure to define “health” and “health-care provider,” she said, are enough to deceive voters and potentially open a box of legal questions in the future.
Because of that, the Republican attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to keep the proposed measure off the ballot, saying proponents are waging “a war” to protect the procedure and ultimately will seek to expand those rights in future years.
The court will hear arguments Feb. 7 on whether the ballot language should be approved.
A law Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved last year banning abortion after 15 weeks is being challenged in court.
If the courts uphold the law — DeSantis appointed five of the Supreme Court’s seven justices — a bill DeSantis signed this year will ban abortion after six weeks, which is before many women know they are pregnant. DeSantis, who is running for president, has said he would support a federal abortion ban after 15 weeks.
Any change in abortion access in Florida will be felt out of state as well because the Sunshine State traditionally has been a haven for women in the southeastern U.S. seeking abortions. There are bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy in nearby Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi and a ban on terminating pregnancies in Georgia after cardiac activity can be detected.Abortion initiative hits milestone for getting in front of Florida voters