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Biden campaign sees a campaign opening after Florida’s abortion ban goes into effect

Sunshine State will also have an amendment to the state’s constitution to protect abortion rights in November

Eric Garcia
Washington, DC
Tuesday 02 April 2024 21:58
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Florida Supreme Court upholds state’s 15-week abortion ban, but voters will soon have a say

President Joe Biden’s campaign sees an opening to win over voters in Florida after the state’s supreme court allowed for its abortion ban to go into effect but also allowed for a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights could be on the ballot.

On Monday, the court overturned three decades of precedent to uphold a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which would likely allow for a more restrictive law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis that bans abortion at six weeks to take effect.

At the same time, the court wrote that a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect Floridians’ right to an abortion until the point of “viability” for a foetus could be on the ballot.

Mr Biden criticised the decision in a statement from the White House on Tuesday morning.

“These extreme laws take away women’s freedom to make their own health care decisions and threaten physicians with jail time simply for providing the medical care that they were trained to provide,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris –?who has made defending abortion rights a staple of her vice presidency –?also decried the decision from the court, putting the blame squarely on Florida’s most famous resident, former president Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump created this health care crisis, and he has no plans to stop now,” she said. Mr Trump has regularly bragged about the fact that he nominated three of the six conservative justices on the US Supreme Court who delivered the Dobbs v Jackson decision that overturned Roe v Wade.

Mr Trump’s campaign gave an evasive response to CNN.

“President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states' rights because he supports the voters' right to make decisions for themselves,” spokesman Steven Cheung said.

But Democrats also see an opportunity to be competitive in Florida after the state moved to the right in the past decade.

The Biden campaign also hosted a campaign call with Fentrice Driskell, the Democratic leader in Florida’s state house; campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez; Congresswoman Nikema Williams of Georgia; and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

“This November, Florida will draw a line in the sand and say enough, we will reject these extremists,” Ms Driskell told reporters.

Mr Cooper, a Democrat who vetoed legislation that banned abortion at 12 weeks but was overridden by the state’s Republican legislature, said that Florida voters had a chance to make their voices heard.

“It will be on the ballot in Florida literally, with this constitutional amendment but also with Joe Biden on the back ballot and the important US Senate race there,” Mr Cooper told reporters.

Democrats have not won Florida in a presidential election since Barack Obama won the state in his 2012 re-election. Mr Trump won the state twice, improving on his margin in 2020 thanks to improved performance with Hispanic voters.

Since then, Republicans have won all statewide elected offices. In 2018, Mr DeSantis won his first gubernatorial election and the state’s then-governor Rick Scott beat the state’s incumbent senator Bill Nelson. In 2022, Mr DeSantis overwhelmingly won re-election

Mr Scott now faces his first re-election likely against former Democratic congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Biden campaign surrogates noted how Democrats in Florida flipped the mayorship in Jacksonville and flipped a legislative seat by focusing on abortion rights.

But Ms Chavez Rodriguez told reporters in response to a question that Florida would still be difficult to win.

“We're clear eyed about, you know, how hard it will be to win Florida but we also know that Trump does not have it in the bag,” she said. Ms Chavez Rodriguez added that the campaign just announced a state leadership team in Florida. “We have a strong agenda to run on and the rollbacks of freedoms from book bands to bans on abortion that we've seen in the state, Floridians aren't standing for”

Ms Driskell told reporters that in 2012, voters beat back an abortion referendum that would prohibit using state money for abortions.

“It's tough to ignore the electoral implications,” she said. “The last time that Democratic presidential candidate won Florida was when there was an anti abortion measure on the ballot. So this is something that Floridians pay attention to.”

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