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Abortion access is on the ballot in Florida. So are two justices who voted against it

Alexandra Glorioso, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

During the Republican presidential debate in Miami last November following a successful Ohio abortion referendum, Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked how he saw a “path forward for Republicans on this issue.”

DeSantis framed his response through the story of Jamaican-American Justice Renatha Francis, whom he appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in August 2022.

When pregnant with Francis, her mother, DeSantis said, was “counseled to not have a baby because she was poor … and she came close to having an abortion but she decided to have the baby … That baby girl ended up immigrating to the state of Florida, becoming a lawyer and a judge, and I appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court.”

Flash-forward to Monday, when the conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court, with Francis and two other justices dissenting, approved a ballot amendment for November that will put the abortion question directly to voters.

Coincidentally, Francis and the question of abortion access will be on the same ballot, with voters deciding whether to allow her to remain on the state Supreme Court following her appointment by DeSantis.

In Florida, it’s standard for Supreme Court justices to face a retention vote shortly after their appointment, and no Supreme Court justice has ever been voted out, which requires only a simple majority. But Francis and Justice Meredith Sasso — who along with Justice Jamie Grosshans dissented in the 4-3 decision — have the unique distinction of sharing a ballot with a polarizing and high-profile constitutional amendment they wanted to keep from the electorate.

 

They also voted Monday to uphold the state’s 15-week abortion ban in a 6-1 decision that clears the way for a stricter 6-week ban to kick in next month.

Will their positions on abortion hurt them?

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, an Orlando Democrat who managed to block DeSantis’ first appointment of Francis in 2020 over issues related to her qualifications at the time, said in a statement Tuesday that neither Francis nor Sasso should be retained by voters in November.

Thompson said Francis “came to the Florida Supreme Court firmly wedded to a political position” and as “voters consider retention of Justices in November, they should understand that not everyone on the Supreme Court comes with the ability to be open-minded and objective.”

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