As Florida advocates mobilize to get abortion rights on the statewide ballot next year through a ballot initiative, a group of anti-abortion activists have launched an effort to thwart the effort.
“Anti-abortion extremists are not only trying to push their own petition on people, lying to Floridians by saying they’re trying to get abortion on the ballot — but they’re also stalking abortion rights activists,” said State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, in a recent PSA video posted to TikTok.
A group known as Protect Human Life, first launched in 2019, is reportedly trying to counter an effort by abortion rights advocates to pass a constitutional amendment limiting government interference with abortion and ensuring Floridians can legally access abortion care up to fetal viability — or roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a 15-week abortion ban last year, and an even more restrictive six-week ban this year that’s contingent upon the outcome of a legal challenge against the 15-week ban. At this time, abortion in Florida is still legal up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
But those restrictions, championed by most of Florida’s Republican lawmakers, aren’t good enough for some.
Protect Human Life has submitted their own proposal for consideration — what they’re calling the “Human Life Protection” amendment — aimed at “recognizing the God-given right to life of the preborn individual.”
The “preborn individual,” the proposal reads, is defined as “a preborn human person at any stage of development.” The proposal would also affirm “that life‐saving procedures to save the life of the mother shall not be construed as a violation when accompanied by reasonable steps to save the life of the preborn individual.”
The group first submitted their ballot initiative proposal last August. Just over 16,000 signatures in support of it have been validated so far, according to the Florida Division of Elections office.
Meanwhile, Floridians Protecting Freedom, a statewide campaign in support of abortion rights, recently shared that they’ve collected nearly half a million petitions for their initiative, and have raised more than $5 million in support of their effort in just two months.
The group has gotten large donations from groups like Planned Parenthood, which is helping spearhead the campaign, as well as the ACLU, Florida Rising, and the 1199 SEIU labor union, according to their latest campaign finance filing (the anti-abortion group, comparatively has raised $125,757 since October 2019).
About 22,000 of petitions gathered by volunteers and paid staffers with Floridians Protecting Freedom, the pro-abortion rights group, have been validated so far.
Ballot initiatives need 891,523 valid petitions, with signatures of support from Florida residents, in order to make it onto the 2024 statewide ballot. The proposal’s language also has to be approved by the Florida Supreme Court.
“Grassroots momentum and enthusiasm for this effort continue to grow,” Moné Holder, chair of Floridians Protecting Freedom and Senior Director of Advocacy & Programs at Florida Rising, shared in a news release of their initiative.
“Floridians recognize the threat abortion bans pose to their freedom, and it’s clear they are ready to fight back against government interference in private health care decisions.”
But Rep. Eskamani, in her TikTok PSA, shared that anti-abortion activists are trying to confuse people with the Protect Human Life group’s proposal, disguising it as a pro-abortion rights effort.
Anti-abortion activists with Florida Voice for the Unborn, a political lobbying group based in Tallahassee, have even launched a website asking people to report the location of people who are gathering petitions in support of abortion rights.
“This portal enables pro-lifers to easily report the precise locations where pro-abortion petition circulators are ROUTINELY gathering – so that Florida Voice for the Unborn can in-turn alert local pro-life advocates in the area,” the website, dubbed “Decline to Sign,” reads.
The goal, it continues is “to counteract the pro-aborts by circulating petitions for the Human Life Protection Amendment, passing out flyers/postcards against the pro-abortion initiative, and displaying pro-life signs (including abortion victim imagery).”
Eskamani warns Floridians to remain vigilant and read any petition someone puts in front of you before you sign it.
“As a friendly reminder, if someone has asked you to sign their petition — they say it’s for abortion — make sure before you sign it, it says that it’s sponsored by Floridians Protecting Freedom,” said Eskamani.
Advocates in at least 10 states across the country, including Florida, are considering ballot measure campaigns over the next two years in support of abortion rights, Vox reports.
And it comes after a series of victories for abortion rights advocates elsewhere. During the last election cycle, in 2022, advocates won in all six states with abortion rights measures on the ballot, according to Vox, including red states such as Kentucky, Kansas, and Montana. Ohio is the only state with an abortion rights ballot measure up for a vote this year.
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