Abortion rights clear big hurdle in Florida, but antis are fighting dirty

Floridians have spoken: They want the opportunity to amend the state’s constitution to restore abortion rights. Floridians Protecting Freedom has gained enough voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot, despite forced-birth advocates’ “Decline to Sign” efforts.

Qualifying for the ballot is just the first step in restoring reproductive rights in Florida, however. The proposed constitutional amendment has to clear the state Supreme Court because the state’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, has challenged the language of the proposed amendment and is fighting dirty.

Moody is trying to muddy the waters about what is fundamentally a medical issue—the point at which a fetus is viable outside the womb—and is lying about guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on the issue. Politico reports that Moody characterized ACOG’s position as saying “it is not always clear when a fetus is viable outside the womb, that it doesn’t depend solely on the length of gestation, and that it requires a ‘nuanced’ determination by doctors using several factors.” ACOG is having none of that, filling a brief with the court to make it clear that Moody was citing their work “in support of a claim that is inconsistent with that guidance.”

“ACOG’s guidance on viability addresses the fact that opponents of abortion are using the term in inappropriate ways intended to limit access to essential reproductive health care,” the organization wrote.”Indeed, this case provides a clear example of the reasons that ACOG published its guidance and opposes political interference in the practice of medicine based on ideology.”

It’s not just Moody, though. After the success of abortion-rights proponents in Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana, red-state GOP officials and forced-birth groups are in a panic.

Anti-abortion groups in Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota are using the now-failed tactics Florida groups used to block petitions and prevent the issue from getting onto ballots. “The Nebraska Catholic Conference, for example, is urging its members to not only refuse to sign but also to hamper canvassers’ efforts to get signatures from others,” Politico reported. Officials in these states are, like Florida’s Moody, trying to use semantics to fight.

In Arkansas, the state’s Republican attorney general recently rejected the name and ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment to restore abortion rights in the state up to 18 weeks after conception, saying it was misleading, contradictory and possibly redundant. And in Missouri, GOP state officials spent months challenging the wording of multiple competing abortion-rights amendments. Conservatives also fought to change the ballot language in both Michigan and Ohio, and succeeded in the latter, but amendments there still passed overwhelmingly.

A lawmaker in Oklahoma has gone so far as to suggest that the legislature and governor need to take over the state’s Supreme Court to prevent it from upholding the rights of citizens. “We really are not going to be able to solve the abortion issue in Oklahoma until we solve the issue of a Supreme Court that does not reflect its people,” state Sen. David Bullard said, according to Politico. “How they ruled recently on abortion has really fired off a lot of concern.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion and kicked off these abortion-rights fights, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the previous courts had overstepped in establishing federal abortion rights and that this court was “return[ing] that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

Those Republican lawmakers are making it absolutely clear that the people need to be cut out of that decision-making. The lengths to which Republicans are willing to go to thwart the will of voters on abortion shows that they don’t want citizens—or the state courts—to decide the issue. The ultimate goal for the forced birthers—in the Republican Party and on the Supreme Court—is a national abortion ban.

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