TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Supporters of including abortion protections in the Florida Constitution are growing increasingly concerned that the issue is being ignored by national Democratic organizations, some of which have started writing off Florida given GOP’s dominance in the state.
A coalition of abortion rights groups is currently collecting signatures to put language on the 2024 ballot to add a provision in the state constitution banning abortion restrictions up to about 24 weeks.
The bulk of the money fueling the ballot effort — which would require 60% voter approval — is coming from in-state donors, which has prompted some of the measure’s biggest supporters to sound the alarm to national Democratic organizations.
“If the national donors are going to abandon Florida, then they are abandoning 80,000 patients a year who access abortion in the number two provider in the country,” said Greg Goddard, a veteran Florida Democratic fundraiser. “If that happens, there will be nowhere for those patients to go.”
After years playing the role of the nation’s largest swing state, in recent election cycles Florida has been dominated by Republicans, who have erased Democrat’s long-held voter registration advantage in the state. There are now nearly 600,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the state. That abrupt shift has spurred national Democratic money to start flowing to other states that are perceived as more winnable.
Supporters are arguing that the impact of losing abortion access in Florida extends beyond the state because the southeast region of the country, which is dominated by conservative states, has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.
“At some point, donors, donor advisers and national stakeholders have to move past previous disappointments and stale narratives about our state,” said J.P. Austin, chairman of the Florida Alliance, a network of 50 organizations that pool their resources to help fund progressive causes. “Women across the Southeast are counting on us and we have a moral imperative to deliver for them.”
“As of today, the only thing standing in the way of protecting women’s reproductive freedom in Florida is funding,” he added. “Many Florida donors have stepped up in ways many of our national partners said was impossible. We’ve put this effort on the road to success.”
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said that additional resources from national groups would help Democrats in the state more broadly build political infrastructure for the 2024 election cycle.
“If more resources come, it will not just help work on the ballot initiative, but also to build additional infrastructure in the state,” she said. “The goal for those working on the ballot initiative is turnout, and that can benefit all.”
Currently, abortion is legal in Florida up to 15 weeks, although legislation signed by DeSantis — and pending rulings at the state Supreme Court — could further restrict it.
The main group organizing the ballot effort, Floridians Protecting Freedom, said that of the more than $10 million raised so far — about 80% — has come from in-state donors. The group has so far gathered more than 400,000 petitions of the 891,523 needed. The deadline is Feb. 1.
“These incredible accomplishments are a testament to the tireless efforts of our fundraising team and a growing network of volunteers — from students to seniors — who have never wavered in their commitment to our campaign to put these deeply held personal decisions back in the hands of patients and their healthcare providers, where they belong,” said Lauren Brenzel, the group’s campaign director, in a statement.
Of the roughly $10 million raised, about $750,000 has come from Planned Parenthood Action Fund. There is a call scheduled between that group and supporters of the ballot measure on Thursday to discuss the effort and potentially more funding, a source familiar with the call tells NBC News.
Planned Parenthood did not return a request seeking comment.
The ballot initiative is opposed by Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has informed the Florida state Supreme Court that she will oppose the measure being put on the ballot but has not yet outlined her legal argument. The proposal has received enough verified signatures to trigger a legal review from the state’s high court, which is tasked with ruling whether specific ballot language can go before voters.
The issue comes against a long-brewing legal fight over a 15-week abortion ban passed by Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by DeSantis in 2022. The measure is currently awaiting a ruling by Florida’s Supreme Court, but abortion rights advocates in the state believe the court, which has five DeSantis-appointed justices, will rule the law is constitutional.
DeSantis this year also signed a six-week abortion ban, which has been on hold until the high court rules on the 15-week ban. If justices uphold the 15-week ban, the six-week law will go into effect, but both would be nullified if the 2024 ballot measure passes.