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With Sweeping Six-Week Abortion Ban in Place, Florida Eyes a Citizens' Choice in November

As of May 1, abortion is legal in Florida only up until six weeks of pregnancy. The ban also impacts neighboring southern states where abortion is increasingly unaccessible. Pro-Choice Floridians are now putting hope in changing the state's constitution.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash

By Emily Fiorini-Casamayouret | MediaLab@FAU

May 2, 2024

On Wednesday, Floridians woke up to a ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, joining Alabama, Louisiana and Texas as states in which the overturn of Roe v. Wade has paved the way to a severe curtailing of access to reproductive healthcare. 

For many young women across Florida, the new reality is reason to become more active in a campaign to support a pro-choice initiative on the ballot in November. It’s also daunting.

“I find the six-week ban kind of scary. Six weeks is just two weeks of a missed period, which is often normal for most women if they're stressed out in life or they’re having personal problems,” said Andrea Fuentes, a 25-year-old account executive in Boynton Beach. “All these are things that could delay your period. It wouldn't be surprising if somebody's period was two weeks [late]... and then you find out you're pregnant.”

Florida has been a sanctuary of the southeastern United States in the upheaval since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. Last year 7,736 out-of-state citizens traveled to Florida for an abortion procedure, NPR reported, a 15% increase from the year before. Now that Florida’s status as a go-to state for pregnancy termination has effectively ended, activists are hoping pro-choice Floridians will demonstrate their frustration at the ballot box in six months.

Amy Weintraub, the Reproductive Rights Program Director and Deputy Communications Director of Progress Florida, believes the most important thing to do now is to mobilize people and vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 in November.

“At six weeks, many women do not even realize they are pregnant,” Weintraub said in an interview. “We are fighting back through our democratic process and are fortunate that Florida is one of 25 states where citizens can petition to put measures on the ballot for voters to decide. This proposed amendment, if passed, will limit government interference with abortion and will lift the abortion ban that extremist politicians have imposed on us.”

Alternative resources and support networks are available to those needing assistance following the ban, she said. 

“In addition to seeking in-person help at a local abortion provider, many Americans are accessing abortion pills by mail. Thank goodness medical research and science have brought this safe option to end unintended pregnancy,” said Weintraub., for example finds providers who ship to Florida addresses and offers a list of retailers in every state, as well as information like clinician involvement, pricing, shipping time, product quality, and instructions. “A public health crisis is being created in Florida,” she added. “It will be a crisis throughout the entire Southeast. Florida doctors have provided more abortion care than any other state, other than Florida.”

In a Pew poll conducted after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, about six in 10 Americans said they believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And about eight in 10 Florida voters under the age of 45 said that the overturn of Roe v. Wade had an impact on how their voted in the 2022 midterm elections, according to AP VoteCast.

But a recent poll by Emerson College indicates that getting at least 60% of Florida voters to support Amendment 4 will be a challenge in a state that was once considered “purple” but now has a clear Republican majority. In the Emerson survey, 42% of voters said they planned to vote yes on the November referendum, 32% were unsure and 25% said they will vote no.

Fuentes, in Boynton Beach, said her opinions on the matter are reflective of more left-leaning women her age group. She worries about the implications for young women just starting out in life. She predicts that if the six-week ban is allowed to stand, high school and college graduation rates will significantly decrease. 

“Typically, life gets put on hold, but not every situation. Some women can have a child and continue with school, although it’s challenging,” says Fuentes. “I feel that for women at a young age, it’s hard to juggle both while also trying to figure out who you are in your own life because, at that age, you're also trying to find your place in the world, and you now have to think of another life.” 

Fuentes believes in the importance of these conversations within political spaces for younger women, and hopes it will be a wake-up for others in Gen Z. 

“I fully respect that some people believe that abortion is wrong through their religions and morals, while others believe that it should be left to the woman having an abortion to make that choice,” she said. “I do think women should be more involved.”

Maria Bruza, a 30-year-old woman residing in West Palm Beach, believes that the ban infringes on women’s rights and says women must be more active in determining America’s political landscape.

“I think it’s against equal rights, and it’s definitely against women’s freedom, just another way to have to control them and their bodies instead of actually caring about women’s health,” said Bruza. “There is no consideration regarding women’s mental or physical health.” 

Bruza also sees the ban’s impact as instilling fear and shame in women who may be seeking guidance in such a confusing time: just after finding out they’re pregnant.

She also worries that the ban will affect access to reproductive healthcare and make bodily autonomy a thing of the past. “It’s just the beginning,” said Bruza. “It will just continue taking away more choices for women to look after their bodies like contraceptive pills, IUDs, and so on. It’s crucial for women to be active…so we could build our future – our children’s futures – with the right to our own decisions and bodies.”

Images of protests in Washington, DC via Unsplash

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