Florida attorney general seeks to block pro-abortion measure from 2024 ballot

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The Florida attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to block an effort to place a pro-abortion constitutional amendment before voters in next year’s election.

In an Oct. 9 filing with the Supreme Court of Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody petitioned the court for a written opinion as to the validity of the petition titled “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion.”

The proposed language would add a right to abortion before the point of “viability” to the state’s constitution if 60% of voters approve.

Moody in her filing argued that the initiative “does not satisfy the legal requirements for ballot placement.”

The Florida Constitution provides that any state law “shall embrace but one subject,” a provision that appears in other state constitutions and is referred to as the “single-subject requirement.” 

The state Supreme Court is tasked with determining if a proposed measure meets this requirement, as well as a requirement that the proposed measure be printed in “clear and unambiguous language.”

Ahead of her filing, Moody explained her reasoning in an op-ed Oct. 6 in which she described herself as “pro-life, unabashedly so.”

“But, my decision to oppose the placement of [the measure on] the ballot has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion. Instead, as I have done throughout my two terms, I have objected to initiatives when the language of the summary will mislead voters,” she explained, calling the proposed measure “one of the worst I have seen.”

The pro-abortion group Floridians Protecting Freedom (FPF) filed its language with the Florida secretary of state last May. The proposed measure has been roundly condemned by pro-life activists, and the Florida Catholic Conference has urged Catholics not to sign it. 

The text of the proposed Florida amendment would order that “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 health care provider.”

Moody in her op-ed criticized the pro-abortion group’s use of the term “viability,” calling the term misleading and saying the proponents have not attempted to clarify the term. 

“As any mother knows, ‘viability’ has two meanings when it comes to pregnancy,” she wrote. 

“First, it means whether a pregnancy is expected to continue developing normally through delivery,” she said. “Doctors can tell during the first trimester, usually around about 12 weeks, whether a pregnancy is viable and would have a much lower risk of miscarriage. For that reason, many women often wait to tell family and friends about their pregnancy until that time.”

“Second, viability is sometimes used to mean whether a baby can survive outside of the uterus, which currently is around 21 to 25 weeks of pregnancy,” she continued, noting that abortions done after 23 weeks involve the dismemberment of an unborn baby.

Moody asserted that the pro-abortion group’s use of the term “viability” was “no accident.”

“It was done to increase the chance that this provision will pass as polling shows that more Americans support abortion in the first trimester with that support significantly decreasing as pregnancy progresses,” she asserted. 

“Floridians are entitled to know clearly and concisely what they are voting for or against.”

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Moody in her op-ed did not expand on her apparent reasoning for objecting to the measure on “single-subject” grounds. CNA contacted her office for further information about her filing and her opposition to the measure but did not receive a reply by press time. 

Other opponents of the measure, such as the Florida Catholic Conference, have argued that the proposed amendment could nullify current state laws requiring parental consent before minors obtain abortions and a 24-hour waiting period prior to abortions, as well as the state’s current 15-week abortion ban and another law that would only allow abortions up to six weeks in pregnancy, which is currently blocked by litigation.

To get their language on the ballot, FPF must gather nearly 900,000 signatures from Floridians by Feb. 1, 2024. Should the group succeed, the vote would take place on general Election Day, Nov. 5, 2024.  

Activists in other states, such as Arizona and New York, are working to get pro-abortion ballot initiatives on the ballot in 2024, and this year in the case of Ohio

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