On the abortion front, Florida faces a clash between potential ballot proposals in 2024

By: - July 13, 2023 4:34 pm

Protestors gather at the Historic Florida Capitol building following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned abortion protections under Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Last weekend in Miami Beach, organizers behind a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access on next year’s ballot say they’ve gathered more than 420,000 petitions and raised more than $4.7 million in just two months — but opponents are trying to slow their momentum.

While it’s received little media attention, a group called Protect Human Life Florida is working on their own effort to collect signatures for what they are calling the Human Life Protection Amendment, setting up a potential clash on abortion proposals on the November ballot in 2024.

The Protect Human Life constitutional amendment would recognize “the God-given right to life of the preborn individual” and define “preborn individual” as a preborn human person at any stage of development. It also “affirms that life-saving procedures to save the life of the mother shall not be construed as a violation when accompanied by reasonable steps to save the life of the preborn individual.” It would be added to the Declaration of Rights under Article 1 of the Florida Constitution.

Katy Harvey (right) is a volunteer with Protect Human Life Florida showing a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment in Pinellas County on July 13, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

“This is an initiative to amend the Florida Constitution to recognize the right to life of the pre-born, who are the most victimized and vulnerable people group in our state,” said Katy Harvey, a volunteer with Protect Human Life Florida, while speaking to the Central Pinellas Republican Club on Thursday afternoon. She described the group as a “grassroots, Christian pro-life” organization.

Harvey said that while her organization celebrated the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had banned a federal right to abortion last year, anti-abortion activists in Florida have no time to rest because Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law banning abortions in Florida after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2022.

Abortions have only increased in the past year in Florida, in part because surrounding states have completely banned abortion in the past year. The Florida Legislature also passed a six-week abortion ban this spring, and DeSantis signed it into law. However, the measure is not in effect until the Florida Supreme Court deals with the 15-week ban, with oral arguments coming up this September.

“So we need everybody’s help in getting this amendment on the 2024 Florida ballot by signing the petition, or even by taking a packet of 10 for your pro-life family and friends,” Harvey told the group, and then demonstrated how those 10 petitions could fit into an 8 x11 self-addressed stamped envelope.

Harvey said it is her hope that Florida could be added to a list of states already banning abortion outright.

Unlike Floridians Protecting Freedom, the group advocating for a constitutional amendment in 2024 that would make abortion legal in Florida until viability, Protect Human Life is not a well-funded effort. The most recent campaign finance reports shows that it has taken in just $125,000 at the end of June.

Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. Dec. 1, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

“It sounds like the opposition to protecting reproductive rights and health is nervous about our efforts because they know how popular it is to protect and defend access to abortion,” says Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Another effort that has recently surfaced to try to slow down the campaign on protecting abortion access comes from the anti-abortion group Florida Voice for the Unborn. The group has created a “Decline to Sign” website that is intended to “serve as a clearinghouse for our pro-life campaign to thwart the Florida abortion industry’s plans to explicitly enshrine the right to abortion in our state Constitution,” according to a recent email sent out to supporters.

The page also includes a portal where people can report the locations of pro-abortion petition gatherers “so that Florida Voice for the Unborn can in turn alert pro-life advocates to counteract the pro-aborts by circulating petitions for the Human Life Protection Amendment, passing out flyers/postcards against the pro-abortion initiative, and displaying pro-life signs (including abortion victim imagery).”

Goodhue called those efforts “anti-democratic.”

“Our petition puts this on the ballot,” she says. “It doesn’t automatically amend the constitution, it simply gives the voters an opportunity in November of 2024 to decide whether or not they want Florida politicians interfering in their private lives. So if the opposition is doing that, that means they’re not even giving Floridians the choice to vote on the issue, so if they are so sure that the right thing for Florida is to not include this on the ballot, not only is that against the will of the people but also extremely undemocratic and counter to our values to freedom and democracy.”

Both abortion campaigns need to get 891,589 signed and validated petitions from registered voters across Florida by February 1, 2024.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.