Florida 'frontline' for abortion battle 2 years after Roe v. Wade overturned

'They are very, very extreme,' Gov. Ron DeSantis said in April regarding Amendment Four
Posted at 10:16 AM, Jun 25, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yes or no? Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturned national abortion protections under Roe v. Wade, the debate still rages here in Florida.

Now, voters have a chance to take the Sunshine State from six weeks to just before viability. But that will happen only if they can get a supermajority to support a November ballot initiative.

That was a main focus in Tallahassee on Monday.

Florida Democrats, the Biden-Harris campaign, and others gathered under the shadow of a 20-foot-tall inflatable intrauterine device (IUD) to push for better access to contraceptives and approval of the Amendment Four abortion ballot initiative this November.

The effort seeks to eliminate almost every Florida abortion law on the books— including the current six-week restrictions, that have expectations for health, rape, incest and human trafficking. If approved with at least 60% support, the constitutional amendment would return Florida to just before viability, about 24 weeks.

Mylissa Farmer was among the advocates at the news conference. The Missouri woman recounted her struggle to find abortion access after complications around 18 weeks into a pregnancy. The fetus was unlikely to survive and her own life became a growing risk.

"It was terrifying," said Farmer. "I mean, there, there are no words for that experience of the security and that ironclad trust that you have in your health care system, that that got eroded very quickly."

The abortion restrictions in her home state forced Farmer to travel over several days to Kansas, back to Missouri, and then finally to Illinois for treatment.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone in this environment right now," she said. "And in my case, it's not uncommon for your water to break and have this situation."

Florida's six-week ban was approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2023. It took effect only about two months ago after the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the law in April, triggering the restrictions targeting physicians that began May 1.

"There's nothing more important in my mind than protecting life," said Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers, last year.

She helped craft the current six-week restriction and told us during a sitdown interview last year that Roe v. Wade's overturn was an "opportunity" to — in her mind — save lives.

"We wouldn't be having this national debate if none of us were born," Persons-Mulicka said.

She is now among those seeking the defeat of Amendment Four this November. Gov. Ron DeSantis as well. In April, he came out against the ballot initiative and a bid for recreational marijuana.

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

The formal effort, "Vote No on Four," calls the change "deceptive" and sweeping. The campaign says the initiative lacks definitions for things like "health care provider" which it has said makes the change too broad. Other concerns are that it preserves only parental "notification," not consent.

"Our opponents want to distract with inflatable gimmicks that have nothing to do with the dangerous and extreme Amendment 4," said Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for No on Four, in a statement. "If passed, Amendment 4 would strip away crucial medical safeguards, allow abortion clinic employees who aren’t doctors to approve late-term abortions for undefined health concerns and allow abortions for minors without parental consent. Florida voters deserve the truth — Amendment 4 is not about reproductive rights — it's about giving abortion clinics a rubber stamp to approve late-term abortions throughout the entire pregnancy."

While the war of words continues, a fundraising battle is well underway. Yes on Four raised $19.8 million from April to mid-June. While Vote No, only about $211,000. But DeSantis is also getting involved with the Florida Freedom Fund, which could become a sizable war chest with him as the frontman.