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Abortion groups aim to challenge Florida’s bans on the ballot in 2024

A coalition including Planned Parenthood affiliates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida will launch their effort to amend the state constitution Monday in Tallahassee.
Abortion rights activists protest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Abortion rights activists protest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last year. Abortion and civil rights groups are trying to put constitutional protections for abortion on the 2024 election ballot. John Parra / Getty Images for MoveOn file

WASHINGTON — A coalition of abortion and civil rights groups are launching an effort Monday to put constitutional protections for abortion on Florida's ballot in next year's election.

The ballot initiative seeks a state constitutional amendment to bar restrictions on abortion before fetal viability, considered to be at about the 24th week of pregnancy, undoing the state’s current 15-week ban and recently passed six-week ban, according to Planned Parenthood, which provided NBC News with a preview of the effort.

"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," the ballot summary will say. "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 ballot campaign was first reported by Politico. The groups behind the effort include Planned Parenthood affiliates, the ACLU of Florida, Florida Rising and Women's Voices of Southwest Florida. Representatives from the various organizations will unveil their effort Monday morning in Tallahassee.

"Floridians want the freedom to make their own personal health care decisions without interference from politicians, but the Legislature recently passed, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, a six-week abortion ban. That’s before many people even know they’re pregnant," said a media advisory for the event.

"The decision to have an abortion belongs to Floridians, their families, and those they trust — this campaign is an opportunity to ensure those protections remain in our state constitution," it added.

The coalition is turning to Florida voters to try to overturn recent legislation signed by DeSantis, a Republican, that would ban most abortions after six weeks, with exemptions for rape and incest at up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. It does not change existing exceptions that aim to protect the life and the health of the mother at up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

After DeSantis signed the 15-week abortion ban last year, the law was challenged and is currently before the Florida Supreme Court. The six-week ban will be on hold until the court rules on 15-week restriction. 

The coalition's effort comes as DeSantis is expected to launch a 2024 presidential bid as soon as mid-May, NBC News previously reported.

DeSantis' office did not immediately return a request for comment about the ballot initiative.

Still, the groups face an uphill battle in trying to place the issue on the ballot, which requires signatures from 8% of the number of voters who participated in the last presidential election in the state as a whole and in at least 14 of Florida's 27 congressional districts, according to Florida's Department of State. That means they need more than 891,589 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

For the ballot initiative to pass would require 60% of state voters to approve it.