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Central Florida groups already mobilizing on abortion amendment

Protesters marched through the heart of Orlando's downtown in commemoration of the 50th anniversary since the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country.
Joe Mario Pedersen
Central Florida Public Media
Protesters marched through the heart of Orlando's downtown in commemoration of the 50th anniversary since the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country.

Political and religious groups in Central Florida are mobilizing after the Florida Supreme Court approved a ballot referendum that would enshrine abortion in the state’s constitution.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court approved the abortion ballot referendum in a 4-3 decision. It also upheld Gov Ron DeSantis’ 2022 15-week abortion ban triggering 30 days until the 2023 six-week ban goes into effect.

In Central Florida, the court’s ruling ignited local groups into action with rallies in support, and against the ballot measure -- Amendment 4 -- are kicking off this month, seven months ahead of the election.

National Women’s Liberation was hosting a sign-making event Friday at the University of Florida ahead of a protest against the six-week ban Saturday afternoon.

The Floridians Protecting Freedom group is meeting April 13 at Lake Eola to rally in support of Amendment 4. The group was responsible for getting more than a million signatures to get the proposed amendment on the ballot.

Ballot Summary: 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. This amendment does not

change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor

has an abortion.

On the other side of the political aisle, Pro-Life Action Ministries of Central Florida is holding services this month out in the public to inform against the ballot measure. It’s also hosting a “Life Banquet” May 14, inviting an author, Dr. Haywood Robinson, who describes his transformation from former abortionist to a pro-life ally.

Groups are already mobilizing since the issue is not only heavily emotional, but it is sure to have a large impact on the Southeast region of the country, said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett.

“We've got this big abortion rights amendment that potentially not just impacts women in Florida, but women throughout the Southeast, and even into the Caribbean, because Florida for a long time, that's been the place where a lot of women from other places have come to have an abortion,” Jewett said.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis broke his silence on the court’s decision, stating he believes the ballot initiative -- and another legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana -- will fail.

"Once voters figure out how radical both of those are, they're going to fail. They are very, very extreme," DeSantis said.

The amendment is lighting up both sides of the issue, but the fervor doesn’t appear to be running as hot among conservative pro-life Republicans, Jewett said.

“I do think that Democrats will be more mobilized than usual. I think Republicans will certainly turn out as well. But I don't know that we'll see a big surge,” Jewett said. “The Republican base typically has had a pretty solid turnout, each election cycle. It's been the Democratic base that has sort of surged, and then declined, then surged, and then declined. That Democratic base seems to be the one that needs a little extra something to convince them to turn out. And in this extra something this time around, it's probably this abortion rights amendment.”

But Jewett says Amendment 4 supporters have a tough road ahead. A survey from the Univeristy of North Florida shows 62% of the public would support the measure. To pass, it will need 60%.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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