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Saturday, April 13, 2024
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If you have seen the bright pink Planned Parenthood Generation Action table on campus, you have been asked to sign the abortion ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives get a bad reputation on college campuses, as some paid petitioners who are just doing it for the money and are not invested in the cause can be very pushy. However, it is important not to let this skew your narrative of this pivotal campaign. 

Floridians Protecting Freedom launched the campaign back in May 2023. A coalition of pro-choice organizations, including Planned Parenthood, have worked in tandem to get abortion on the ballot in Florida.

Since the Florida 2022 legislative session, the supermajority of Florida Republicans has been more and more regressive on abortion policies.

During the 2022 legislative session, a 15-week ban was passed, with no exceptions for rape and incest. Florida Republicans painted this legislation as a compromise bill. 

In summer 2022, when Roe v. Wade was overturned, this sparked a nationwide precedent to trigger laws of restrictions to abortion being passed. When a historic event occurs, the common question is, “Where were you?” 

The day the decision came out, I was in my bed. I woke up that morning, ironically, to my birth control alarm. I picked up my phone to find a stream of texts from my younger sister breaking the news, one being: “I am leaving this country.” It was heartbreaking to hear this hopelessness from my 15-year-old sister. I immediately texted my friends in the organizing sphere to coordinate our protesting efforts. 

The next day, I went to protest the overturn of Roe v. Wade in Downtown Gainesville; the streets were filled with so many people from various backgrounds. The large number of people who were passionate about reproductive rights gave me a glimmer of hope. 

During the 2023 legislative session, an even more regressive bill was passed, a six-week ban. People able to get pregnant would likely not know they were pregnant at six weeks. In addition, this bill increased the funding for crisis pregnancy clinics (CPCs) from five million to 25 million dollars in state funding. CPCs do not require licensed medical professionals and are created and funded by extreme anti-choice organizations. 

During the 2024 legislative session, a total abortion ban was proposed in the House. This bill is not expected to have a counterpart filed in the Senate, so we should be safe. However, the idea of this even being proposed is terrifying. 

When we put abortion on the ballot, abortion is a winning issue. People must have the power to vote on the issue. Across the United States, pro-choice and pro-abortion initiatives have been successful. 

There have already been huge wins with abortion on ballots! In 2022, voters in Kansas turned down a proposed state constitutional amendment, which would have negated the right to abortion within the state. In 2023, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment recognizing the right to make personal reproductive choices, including abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, miscarriage care and pregnancy continuation. These favorable passed ballot initiatives serve as a beacon of hope for the battle for bodily autonomy. 

In Florida, there is more than the public office on the ballot, Amendment 4 is the pro-abortion ballot initiative. 

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“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,” the amendment said.

While getting this initiative on the ballot is a major milestone, it has not come without pushback from the opposition. Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General, challenged the initiative in the Florida Supreme Court. So it is important to support groups in your local community, such as Planned Parenthood, fighting on the front lines. 

Voters in New York and Maryland will also be voting during this 2024 election cycle on abortion ballot initiatives.

So the million-dollar question is: why should we as individuals care? 

Abortion disproportionately impacts individuals from marginalized communities. According to NBC News, Latinas are the largest group of women of color affected by current and future state abortion bans and restrictions. In fact, close to 6.5 million Latinas (42% of all Latinas ages 15-49) live in 26 states that have banned or are likely to ban abortions. The 2020 census shows that 27.1% of Florida's population is Hispanic. Yes, while not every Hispanic has the capability for reproduction, an entire family can be impacted negatively by the abortion ban. 

At the end of the day, an individual's choice to get an abortion should be between them and their provider — not politicians. Let us do Floridians a favor; vote yes on 4.

Paulina Trujillo is a UF women’s studies and political science senior and legislative & political director of the UF Planned Parenthood Generation Action.

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