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How abortion is guiding Central Florida voters ahead of the general election

Aramis Ayala speaking at a Florida Now function at the Florida Hotel 10/30/22.
Aramis Ayala speaking at a Florida Now function at the Florida Hotel 10/30/22.

Florida voters are heading to the polls and for many, the issue of abortion is driving their decisions on the ballot.

Last Friday at a conference room in the Florida Hotel, a group of mostly Central Florida women gathered to listen to general election candidates about one key issue: abortion. 

“When you saw what we’re fighting for, that right to privacy? There’s just one side of it? That’s just wrong. We have evolved as women. We give birth. We create this world. How dare you not give us our rights,” said Aramis Ayala, a Democratic candidate for Florida's Attorney General.

Ayala, among nine other, pro-choice candidates, stood before club members of the Greater Orlando Now and Florida Now groups — both being women’s rights and abortion advocacy groups. 

While abortion may not be on the ballot for the 2022 general election, the issue has become one of the most important topics to voters when considering their ballot choices.  Florida has become a battleground over the issue after the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson which overturned Roe v. Wade, giving back the state's power to enact abortion restrictions. Florida’s HB 5, which took effect in July, bans most abortions after 15 weeks of gestation.

One of the attendees at the Florida Now event was Doris Rosen, who said she supports Ayala’s views on abortion, but the fight over women’s reproductive rights is not just a discussion about the right to carry out an abortion — it's a struggle for control.

"Well, for me personally, the top issue is the abortion issue. Not that it's just abortion, it's a matter of power and control over women's lives. If they start with abortion, what will they follow up with after that?" she said.

Defending the rights of the unborn

On the other side of the issue is Michele Herzog, the director of Pro-Life Action Ministries Central Florida. She said that she’s only interested in candidates who share her beliefs, that abortion is an attack on unborn individuals and the stepstones toward a violent culture.  

“And this is going on every day? You know, there are abortion centers that commit abortions on Sunday. So every day of the week in America, this is going on, and we continue to see violence just continue to grow. And so yes, this is extremely important to me,” she said.

Herzog is a non-denominational Christian. But she wasn't always.

At 29 years old Herzog had an abortion. The trauma of the experience changed her worldview, she said. Now, she's determined to help women who face a similar choice. She and the ministry demonstrate in front of Central Florida abortion clinics and have been increasing their efforts as Election Day draws near. As far as candidates go, Herzog wants someone who will defend the unborn, but she doesn't ask if candidates are pro-life. Instead, she takes her questioning a step further. 

"My question to them is, what will you do to restore the rights of the unborn to declare them persons?" Herzog said.

Looking for a solution to a divisive issue


[caption id="attachment_205404" align="alignleft" width="400"]

Bonnie Jackson is a Republican candidate running for House Representative of Florida's 42nd District. She is a lifelong Catholic and a practicing attorney in Winter Park. Image from jacksonforflorida.com.[/caption]

One of those candidates is Bonnie Jackson, a Republican challenging state Representative Anna Eskamani, with abortion being one of the many issues the two differ on. When it comes to abortion, Jackson, a lifelong practicing Catholic, wants to reframe how the issue is discussed.


 "I really am bothered by the way, this topic is framed by both sides. You know, I'm right, you're wrong. You're immoral. I'm moral. That's not the case. There are two sides to this issue,” she said. "If I could wave my wand, there would be no such thing as abortion. Of course, there would also be no such thing as rape, and there would be no such thing as human trafficking. But we have to live in the real world, and the real world is ugly sometimes.”

To work out an appropriate solution, Jackson said she wants to work across the partisan aisle. In the meantime, she supports Florida’s 15-week ban. Although she's interested in seeing the issue work its way through the Florida courts to determine if the 15-week abortion ban, is constitutional, she said.

"Because Florida has its own right of privacy written into the Constitution and it's not clear if the Florida Supreme Court is going to say that it eliminates this 15-week abortion ban or not," she said.

Back at the Florida Hotel, voter Doris Rosen continued to listen to the pro-choice candidates and their campaign promises. Their stance on abortion is what’s driving her vote, but she also understands the issue is divisive.

"There's too much hate in this country. We've got to come together a little bit better, even having opposing issues," Rosen said.

For voters like Rosen, they hope for action on abortion, but not at the expense of civility.