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Florida groups warn abortion rights amendment won't pass without money to sway undecided voters

In Florida, amendments need 60% or more to pass, a high threshold that abortion rights activists say requires resources to knock on doors, educate voters and ensure turnout.
An exam table in an empty room inside a clinic
The examination room in A Woman's Choice of Jacksonville clinic, which provides abortion care in Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

HIALEAH, Fla. — Some Florida groups that support abortion rights are concerned that a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution and invalidate the recently enacted six-week abortion ban may not pass in November if more donor money is not pumped into these organizations to raise awareness and turn out voters.

“This bill passing is not a slam-dunk deal by any means,” said Alex Berrios, co-founder of the progressive group Mi Vecino, which is focused on voter education and mobilization. “While there is overall support for the ballot measure, there is not nearly enough without persuading undecided voters.”

Florida recently banned abortion after six weeks of gestation — before many women know they're pregnant — which has left many women and health providers scrambling to adapt to the restrictions. Until the ban went into effect, Florida was one of the last states in the Southeast where abortion was still largely accessible. Now the closest state with abortion access beyond six weeks is North Carolina, where it is allowed until 12 weeks.

The proposed amendment would invalidate the six-week ban by barring restrictions on abortion before fetal viability, considered to be at about the 24th week of pregnancy. It would also include exceptions past that point for “the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

Since the 2022 Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, voters have favored expanding abortion rights in all the states that introduced abortion-related ballot measures.

But in Florida, amendments need 60% or more approval to pass — a high threshold that worries activists here.

In swing states like Michigan and Ohio, voters have backed abortion rights at the ballot by less than 57%. Berrios and other activists point out that Florida, a larger state with double the population size, requires more volunteers and resources to educate voters about ballot measures and convince them to turn out to vote.

The state has also tilted right in recent years and is no longer considered a swing state, making it more difficult to convince voters who see this as a partisan and not a health-care issue, some activists say.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of Florida Rising, a progressive voting rights group, said she has seen an increase in foundation and donor funds to the state's nonprofit groups after the ballot initiative was approved, but “the budget isn’t fully raised by any stretch of the imagination yet,” she said.

“Florida is the third largest state in the nation, so to reach our population and to win 60% of the vote is going to require all hands on deck,” Mercado said. “And it will be expensive to make sure that 60% of voters in November vote yes on Amendment 4.”

Mi Vecino, a group based in West Palm Beach with offices in Central Florida, usually focuses on Latino voters, but it has been reaching out to all voter groups in Central Florida, knocking on doors since December.

Berrios, the co-founder, said they would be canvassing in South Florida right now but lack the funds to take on the task. So far, they have knocked on about 77,000 doors to talk about the ballot measure and made a quarter-million phone calls to voters in Central and South Florida.

“What we found consistently is that voters are very open to supporting this initiative,” said Berrios. “But there’s a lot of work that has to be done around it. Voters are not necessarily motivated to support it.”

Among Florida Democrats they've reached out to, about 20% said they were against the amendment, while 13% were undecided — that's almost a third of Democrats who are not presently saying they support the measure. Among Republicans they spoke with, 28% say they support Amendment 4 while 25% are undecided — that's almost half of Republicans that could potentially support the measure, according to Berrios.

This shows that for Amendment 4 to get 60% of the vote, the support has to cut across Democrats, Republicans and independents, he said.

Knocking on doors in Hialeah

Days after Florida’s six-week abortion ban went into effect, Gina Romero, an organizer with Florida Rising, a progressive voting rights group, began canvassing in Hialeah, a working-class city in Miami Dade County that is 95% Latino. A majority voted for Trump in 2020.

Armed with flyers and a hat to shield the punishing sun, Romero knocked on doors and spoke to voters where about half seemed to support the measure and the other half did not. Many people weren’t home and Romero left a flyer at their door with information.

“We are Catholic. We don’t believe in abortion,” said Maria Luisa Benitez, a retired agricultural engineer, as she discussed Amendment 4 with Romero at her doorstep, her dogs barking in the background. Benitez did agree there should be certain exceptions to abortion restrictions when a woman's health is endangered.

Down the block, Doris Saldá, 68, said she supports Amendment 4 and called the abortion ban “an attack on my body.”

Gina Romero speaks with Doris Saldá while she canvasses
Gina Romero, an organizer with Florida Rising, with Doris Saldá outside her home in Hialeah, Fla., on May 9.Carmen Sesin / NBC News

“I pay taxes and I’m law abiding. I should have the freedom to do what I want with my body,” said Saldá.Nationally, Democrats are seizing on abortion, hoping it will galvanize moderate voters, especially women, to turn out in November.

The Biden campaign often cites Democratic victories in the 2022 midterm election as examples of the issue driving voters to turn out. After Florida’s Supreme Court approved the state's six-week abortion ban, President Joe Biden made a campaign stop in Tampa, where he blamed Donald Trump for "this nightmare" — Trump has repeatedly taken credit for appointing the three conservative Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.

Biden read off a list of states where voters have supported abortion rights measures and said, “This November, you can add Florida to that list.”

On the day the six-week ban went into effect, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a speech in Jacksonville, calling the measure “another Trump abortion ban.”

But now that the pivotal swing state has moved further to the right in recent years, some abortion rights advocates stress the importance of seeing abortion access as a health care issue and not a Democratic issue to ensure support across all voters.  

Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director of "Yes on 4," which advocates for the amendment, said Floridians are used to the 60% threshold and noted that other ballot measures, like the one on the 2020 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, passed with 60% of the vote.

“Floridians understand that policy can exist outside of the candidate space,” Brenzel said. “That is so important for abortion, because, unfortunately, what we see is political actors on both sides who have really taken this issue and made it a political one, when normal people think this is a health care issue.”  

Berrios said that in a state like Florida, "it’s going to come down to who delivers the most effective message, and then turns out their support. ... There is a lot of opportunity, but it requires work.”