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Florida Supreme Court rulings ensure abortion takes center stage in elections

Max Greenwood, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

MIAMI — When the Florida Supreme Court signed off on a measure that would allow abortion access to appear on the ballot in November, while paving the way for a six-week ban on the procedure to take effect in the state, the justices also set the parameters of the debate for every candidate on the ballot.

Now, voters and candidates alike will have to decide in November whether they support a right to abortion “before viability” — usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy — or want to continue to limit access to the procedure at just six weeks, well before most women know they’re pregnant.

Democrats, who’ve become less competitive in the state in recent years, greeted the news that voters would vote simultaneously for president, U.S. Senate and abortion access with enthusiasm. President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign promised that “abortion rights will be front and center in Florida this election cycle.” U.S. Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Rick Scott, promised that the state’s new six-week ban will “backfire” on the GOP.

But Republicans, who are framing the ballot issue as an effort to permit abortion up until birth, are equally confident, saying they’ll stage an “organized effort” to turn out centrist voters against the proposed amendment.

“This effort really will be focused on those in the middle in Florida,” House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters in a press conference on Monday afternoon, saying the abortion amendment goes “much further than where most Floridians are.”

Florida Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulika, one of the sponsors of the six-week ban, wrote in a tweet after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for the abortion ballot measure that the proposal amounted to “abortion on demand until the moment of birth” and pleaded with Floridians to “Vote No” on the measure.

 

But supporters of the abortion amendment say that presenting voters with a choice between a six-week ban and the old standard set by Roe v. Wade, the since-overturned U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a federal right to abortion, puts Republicans in a difficult political position.

“I can tell you I’ve been traveling across the state and there is a grassroots movement going on,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “They’re ready. They’re ready to come out and organize and vote.”

Mucarsel-Powell was quick to note that Scott had already expressed support for the six-week abortion ban and had said that he would have signed it into law if he was still in the governor’s mansion. She said that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision effectively forces Scott and other Republicans to answer for one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

“It’s not a partisan political issue,” she said. “This is truly an issue of respecting a woman’s dignity, protecting her right to choose, kicking out any sort of politician or government who interferes in that decision.”

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