Republicans Account for About 150,000 Signatures in Support of Florida’s Abortion Ballot Measure

"What’s clear is people from across the political spectrum don’t want the government making decisions for them," the measure's campaign director told Jezebel.

Republicans Account for About 150,000 Signatures in Support of Florida’s Abortion Ballot Measure
Photo:Stephen Maturen (Getty Images)

Back in May, Florida abortion rights advocates began collecting signatures to get a measure on the November 2024 ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in their state. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, several states have put abortion rights on the ballot, and from Kansas in August 2022 to Ohio just last month, abortion rights have won handily.

Florida abortion rights advocates believe their state is next. As of this week, the Florida Division of Elections reports that it’s validated 687,699 of the 891,523 signatures needed by February 1 to get the measure on the ballot. Floridians Protecting Freedom says that it’s submitted over 1.3 million signatures total—and more than 150,000 of those signatures come from registered Republican voters.

“We’re having active conversations with voters from every political party, including Republicans; many of them are eager to sign our petition as soon as they hear what it’s about,” Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign director Lauren Brenzel told Jezebel in a statement. “What’s clear is people from across the political spectrum don’t want the government making decisions for them and their doctors.”

Floridians Protecting Freedom’s proposed measure states, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” Currently, abortion is banned in Florida at 15 weeks, pending a court ruling on a six-week ban that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed earlier this year. Speaking to NBC, Republican voters—including a former state representative who campaigned for former Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—criticized Florida’s abortion laws for infringing on privacy rights and not listening to voters. Curiously, one Republican voter who supports the ballot measure told NBC she voted for DeSantis in 2022, at which point DeSantis had already signed a 15-week abortion ban into law and made his anti-abortion extremism clear.

Brenzel notes that “polling shows the majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in Florida all support limiting government interference with abortion.” (Of course, it seems worth interrogating why, if Republican voters support abortion rights, they continue to vote to put anti-abortion extremists in office anyway. But one step at a time, I guess.) Abortion rights organizers in Florida have revealed some of their strategies to gain Republican support: Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition Executive Director Anna Hochkammer told NBC she avoids using gender-inclusive terms like “pregnant people,” sticking to “women and girls,” when talking about abortion. “We stay as far away from jargon or from the speech that sort of signals to people whether you’re on the left or the right of the political spectrum, and we acknowledge the elephant in the room at the very top of every conversation,” Hochkammer said. “We try and create a space where we all acknowledge we disagree on many, many things. We happen to agree on this issue, and all are welcome.”

While winning over as many people as possible to enshrine abortion rights is a noble and important goal, there’s nothing controversial or even political about the objective reality that trans and nonbinary people get pregnant and need abortions—nor does the term “pregnant people” erase women and girls. And there’s no need to preemptively assume people won’t be able to grasp this basic truth. Asked about Hochkammer’s comments, Brenzel told Jezebel: “Florida is a diverse state. We’re reaching out to voters of all ages, backgrounds and political persuasions, in English and Spanish. And our coalition is diverse as well, representing more than 200 local, state, and national organizations as well as more than 100 health care providers.” Her statement continued, “We’re all different and we all have different approaches with different audiences, but we share a common goal—to ensure every patient in Florida needing reproductive health care can get it, not what politicians think they should have access to, but what patients and their health care providers think is best.”

As a result of the broad popularity of abortion rights, Republican leaders have resorted to underhanded tactics, voter suppression, and outright deceit to combat these measures. In Missouri, state officials tried to block a ballot measure by lying that a right to abortion would cost the state “upwards of $12 billion” and the proposed measure would allow abortion until live birth. (Fact check: False!) Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has similarly centered her fight against the proposed abortion measure around fearmongering about abortion viability. In October, she claimed the proposal’s language is unclear about where it stands on limiting abortion based on viability. Brenzel, in response, told Jezebel at the time that the measure “is clear and precise in limiting government interference with abortion ‘before viability.’”

Fetal viability is the point when the fetus can supposedly survive outside the womb, understood by lawmakers to be around 24 weeks. But despite how the term isn’t as arbitrary as politicians make it out to be, viability has become widely weaponized by anti-abortion politicians who see misinformation as the only way to curb abortion rights’ broad popularity. “The truth is, most Floridians, and most Americans, are opposed to politicians butting into their most personal and private health care decisions,” Brenzel told Jezebel. “There is a broad understanding in our state about the importance of returning bodily autonomy to all of our citizens.”

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