The debate over abortion rights in Florida isn’t, as Attorney General Ashley Moody has alleged before the state’s highest court, too hard for voters to understand.
She underestimates us.
The issue boils down to basics: Who gets to make one of the hardest and most personal decisions a woman has to confront in her life? A choice that affects her physical and mental health forever.
Under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican politicians decided last legislative session that they have the ultimate say — imposing on Florida’s 10.8 million women a near-ban on abortion, without giving any consideration of the opposition.
For years, the Florida GOP has been inching toward total control of this vital healthcare right, first coming after Planned Parenthood with bogus accusations, then banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2022, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
With a Republican super-majority in the Legislature in place — and emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning Roe vs. Wade’s constitutional protection — the governor and lawmakers went quite far this year.
They passed, and DeSantis signed in a telling private ceremony in his office, a near ban by instituting a six-week limit on access. The restriction means that by the time many women find out they’re pregnant, they no longer can legally get an abortion in the state — and that any doctor performing the procedure could go to prison.
Now, DeSantis and Moody are trying to keep voters from fighting back, Kansas-style, by putting abortion on the ballot — and winning constitutional protection.
Legal challenges & petition
Did Republicans really think women and their male allies would sit back and allow politicians to take over bodily rights, family decisions and healthcare choices — without pushing back?
Now, the 15-week ban is under legal challenge in the state Supreme Court — and it’s not the only one.
A petition to put an abortion rights amendment on the November 2024 ballot that would prevent the outright ban the GOP ultimately wants — ensuring constitutional access against political whim — has gathered an impressive 500,000 of the 891,523 voter signatures needed by the Feb. 1 deadline.
The committee behind the petition, Floridians Protecting Freedom, has raised almost $5 million in six months. Both are strong indicators of voter support.
But, Moody claims, the ballot initiative is an effort to “hoodwink” voters and she calls the all-American democratic practice of activism to secure rights, “war.”
Florida voters are being hoodwinked alright. But it’s not by women seeking access to safe, legal abortion.
It’s by a Florida GOP doing the bidding of the wealthy, ultra-conservative Christian lobby buying political power — and doesn’t care if studies show that the women most affected by abortion bans are poor and dark-skinned.
Seeking Supreme Court repeal
By going straight to the state’s conservative Supreme Court to ask for a repeal of the petition, Moody shows that she’s running scared of voters’ will and complex points of view on abortion. She’s afraid they’ll exercise their say and vote in favor of constitutionally protecting abortion in Florida — as they did in 2018 when 65% voted to restore the voting rights of felons who done their time.
She has put forth no valid legal argument for seeking to quash people’s right to make their voice heard by unilaterally taking the proposed amendment off the ballot — especially before the committee has completed gathering signatures.
It’s not a democratic move on Moody’s part, but Florida’s autocratic Republicans are beyond caring about democracy and its institutions.
It’s their way or the highway, voters need not opine and neither should Democratic lawmakers. The abortion debate proved there’s no room for bipartisanship or working to reach a consensus.
Republicans assume that Florida is a blindingly red state, and people will keep voting for them in support of an increasingly intrusive, extremist agenda. That’s how it’s been in recent elections, but in the case of abortion restrictions, families are experiencing what it’s like to live under someone else’s choice when it’s their daughter, wife or girlfriend’s life on the line.
That’s when the public debate becomes deeply personal — and choice matters.
If Moody — or any other woman, for that matter — doesn’t want an abortion, she doesn’t have to get one. Under restrictions, women and families have no choice.
It is that simple.
No party, no politician should be making the decision for the woman who feels that having one more child may kill her. Or, for the teen swept away by hormones and false promises of eternal love whose future suddenly is a question mark.
With extremist DeSantis vying for the GOP presidential nomination and the privilege of leading the nation, Florida’s abortion rights debate becomes a matter of national importance.
DeSantis, who as Trump did nationally has stacked the courts with conservatives — at least two critical appointees, highly inexperienced — only serves a narrow sliver of the population. In other words, his view of governance is minority rule over the diverse majority.
If Florida’s attorney general prevails with the state Supreme Court and silences voters’ voice on a topic as crucial as abortion, she will have set a dangerous precedent.
Voters everywhere must pay attention.