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Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Students, candidates cite abortion rights as top election issue

Overturn of Roe v. Wade proves divisive

Some voters only have one thing on their minds this general election — abortion rights. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade and tightened abortion restrictions have heightened the importance of reproductive rights in the general election. Students, activists and candidates point to abortion access as a top issue in this election. 

Voter registration among women in states like Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania surged following the overturn of Roe. Registration among women spiked 16% in Kansas and 6% in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where a Republican majority could enact a total abortion ban if elected, according to a New York Times report.

Florida has seen its own increase, though it’s noticeably smaller at just 2%. Still, Florida Democrats stress reproductive rights in platform points and reasons for voting. 

Tika Horigene, a 19-year-old UF economics sophomore, said she’s wary of the implications of the general election, which put access to abortion and reproductive rights at risk. Though she’s routinely engaged in activism, Horigene said it was especially important for her to vote in support of the policy stances she’s taken.

“If I do any type of activism, I always want to make sure I’m doing actions that support it, not just talk,” she said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t explicitly outlined plans to tighten abortion restrictions if reelected. Currently, Florida’s abortion ban sits at 15 weeks, which took effect in July. Still, voters like Maria Smarandache, a 21-year-old UF biology junior, worry a stricter abortion landscape is on the horizion. 

The overturn of Roe spurred Smarandache to vote with greater urgency — a trend she said she’s seen in other women as well. The gubernatorial pick is especially crucial in this issue, she said.

“I’m already scared of my rights and other women’s rights being taken away,” Smarandache said. “If Ron DeSantis gets reelected, that’s definitely going to happen.”

The gubernatorial election pits two candidates with differing views on abortion access against each other. While DeSantis signed the 15-week bill into law and promised to expand anti-abortion provisions following the overturn of Roe, Democratic candidate former Rep. Charlie Crist vowed to sign an executive order securing the right to an abortion if elected. 

Direct abortion policy isn’t at stake on the ballot, but candidates will play a key role in shaping future legislation. The partisan makeup of federal and state Congress, which this election could change, may sway the way these bodies propose and vote on future abortion legislation. 

The Republican-controlled state House and Senate proposed and passed the 15-week ban, and though the state constitution’s privacy clause safeguards the right to an abortion, Congress can tighten restrictions to it through policy. 

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The Women’s Health Protection Act, which attempted to secure nationwide abortion access, passed in the Democrat-majority U.S. House but narrowly failed in the U.S. Senate, where 50 Republicans slightly outweigh 48 Democrats and two independents. House Republicans like Rep. Kat Cammack, who represents Florida’s 3rd Congressional District and is up for reelection, voted against the act. 

Cammack’s opponent, Democratic candidate Danielle Hawk, has continually cited the right to an abortion as a top issue in her campaign. In a September discussion with Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Hawk said securing nationwide abortion access is a matter of personal freedom and healthcare, not a partisan issue.

“We are talking about somebody’s ability to choose without government interference what they are going to do with their own bodies,” Hawk said. “It is not the job of the government to be making those decisions for someone.”

Nelay Govan, a 21-year-old UF economics senior, echoed Hawk’s sentiments regarding individual liberties. Abortion, he said, is a personal decision. 

Govan’s voting with immigrant rights and abortion access in mind, he said. The two issues both put personal freedoms and protections at risk — something Govan said he thinks are important to safeguard. 

The overturn of Roe v. Wade should’ve never happened, Govan said, and abortion access should be upheld. 

“It’s their body, their choice,” he said. “Everybody deserves that basic human right.” 

Contact Heather at Follow her on Twitter @hmb_1013.

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Heather Bushman

Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.

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