Host: It looks like there’s going to be a photo finish. Officially, the access-to-reproductive-healthcare petition, as of today has 77% of the signatures needed for a constitutional amendment to make it on the November 2024 ballot in Florida. WSLR reporter Ryan Stanley talked to the organizers.
Ryan Stanley: Floridians Protecting Freedom, the petition campaign to put abortion access on the Florida ballot in 2024, is hitting crucial milestones this month. This citizen initiative would give voters the chance to safeguard the reproductive rights of women by enshrining them in the state constitution. But with 23 days remaining for volunteers to collect and return signed petitions, the heat is on.
I caught up with Cheyenne Drews, Senior Communications Specialist for Progress Florida for an update.
Cheyenne Drew: Right now, we’re sitting at about 77% of verified petitions needed to qualify for the ballot. Now keep in mind that the Supervisor of Elections can lag up to 30 days at this point in verifying those petitions. We know more are submitted. That being said, we are not taking anything for granted, and we are now pushing our strategy around targeted congressional districts, because not only do we need nearly 900,000 verified petitions from across the state, we have to meet a threshold of 14 congressional districts. Well, I’m proud to say we have collected petitions in every single county in Florida. But that being said, now that we’ve met threshold in some of those bigger metro areas, we’re focusing more energy on those ones that we haven’t quite hit the threshold, but the opportunity is there.
RS: This shift in focus has placed the burden directly on activists who’ve been responsible for collecting over 200,000 petitions statewide. Now with only five of the 14 required districts meeting the petition threshold, the campaign is driving volunteers toward four targeted districts — District 9 in Central Florida, District 22 in Boynton Beach, District 23 in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, and District 16, right in our backyard: Bradenton and Riverview. Cheyenne explains more.
CD: Our strategy has to really narrow, because we’re having limited time and resources. So those districts that we’re focusing on right now are ones that were close. We have the capacity to reach it, as long as we stay invested in those areas. If you know that your area has already collected the petitions needed, or if you’re nearby, if you have the capacity to travel into those areas — please help. I know Sarasota, for example, has met the threshold. We appreciate that Manatee County needs you now. And so we’re helping our sister cities get there in these last few weeks.
RS: And so, with additional petitioning in Manatee County, how are activists planning to keep up the momentum, as many of us are starting to unplug and focusing on our family during the holidays for the rest of the year?
CD: Any bit of time folks can give is going to be so precious, because of where we’re at in this timeline. Folks can go to FloridiansProtectingFreedom.com, and there they will find ways that they can get involved at local events. They can get involved virtually making phone calls, and participate in weekly updates from the campaign to ensure that they know the best places that they can put their energy. I also want to encourage folks as they’re making their holiday plans to bring petitions with them. We know that even talking about this ballot initiative works to break down stigma. And so we encourage you to have those conversations to get petitions signed as you travel throughout the state, and to help us finish strong because we only have a limited amount of time to do this. What we do in the coming weeks could impact the lives of generations to come.
RS: Yes, let’s not forget what’s at stake. Activists argue that this movement is not just about abortion. It’s about preserving individual autonomy and ensuring that everyone has the right to make choices that align with their personal beliefs and circumstances. Ultimately, Cheyenne says it’s about freedom.
CD: Since the Dobbs decision or the fall of Roe v Wade, we have seen in every state that’s put abortion on the ballot people have turned out for abortion access. We’re confident that Florida is going to be next. Currently, we’re under a 15-week abortion ban, and we’ve already seen the devastating impacts of that on individuals that live in Florida. Now we face every single week the potential that the Florida State Supreme Court releases a decision that could potentially trigger a six-week abortion ban 30 days after that decision comes out. That is simply a horrifying reality. It does not mean people will be absent of options. I want to be very clear about that. However, it could be devastating for access to abortion care, to healthcare that is much needed. And so this ballot initiative puts power back in the hands of voters, where it belongs, and not politicians, because the people are best suited to make decisions around their pregnancy, their lives. They’re going to be patients, they’re providers and anybody else that they decide to include in that decision. And by putting this ballot initiative on the 2024 ballot in November, we know that folks are going to turn out for that, because they believe in freedom.
RS: Again, for more information on how you can get involved and secure the petition’s place on the 2024 Florida ballot, you can go to FloridiansProtectingFreedom.com.
This has been Ryan Stanley, reporting for WSLR News.
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