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Politics / Issues

The end of Roe v. Wade is expected to help Democrats, not Republicans, in Florida

Abortion rights advocates rally outside the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Valerie Crowder
/
WFSU News
Abortion rights advocates rally outside the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Democrats are expected to get a boost in the midterm elections if Roe v. Wade is overturned, but whether it will result in significant gains across Florida remains uncertain.

It’s too early to predict just how much the demise of Roe v. Wade might affect the midterm elections in Florida, but the state's political leaders are offering clues in their messaging.

For Democrats, the imminent roll-back of reproductive rights serves as a call to action. House Minority Policy Chair Representative Fentrice Driskell said during a recent press conference that election stakes are now higher in Florida.

“Our state elections have even greater consequence now, and I think it’s important for the public, just like on any other issue, constituents should make their voices heard and let their elected officials know what they think.”

If the Court’s draft opinion becomes a final ruling, states would have the power to protect or restrict access to abortion. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have focused less on the substance of the draft ruling and more on the fact that it was leaked. This messaging was on display when Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about the issue during a recent press conference.

“That’s a real significant breach of trust. You want to talk about an insurrection, that’s a judicial insurrection to be taking that out and trying to kneecap a potential majority through kind of extra-constitutional means.”

At least one anti-abortion group has asked DeSantis to push for lawmakers to pass a ban on almost all abortions when they meet in Tallahassee later this month. But DeSantis has hinted that lawmakers will likely hold off until the Supreme Court issues its final ruling.

“I would just caution people, you can leak stuff out of a court, which was really unprecedented, but let’s see when you actually have something rendered.”

University of Washington Political Scientist Sophia Jordan Wallace says responding to the draft opinion with a ban on almost all abortions could prove too risky for DeSantis, who’s seeking reelection in November.

A University of North Florida survey taken earlier this year shows most Florida voters don’t support banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“If that is what it looks like for a 15-week ban, what would support look like for something that makes abortion illegal, entirely?”

Wallace says national polling data shows most people support allowing access to abortion in the first trimester.

“If I was DeSantis or his staff, I would look at that data and say, ‘Uh oh, this could’ve appeased some people, but we better be careful.’”

Lawmakers recently enacted a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, without providing an exception for victims of rape or incest. The new law takes effect on July 1st. The new law is expected to draw a legal challenge under the state constitution’s right to privacy guarantee. Orlando Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani told reporters last week that it’s unrealistic to rely solely on the courts to protect abortion access. Instead she says voters should turn to the ballot box.

“When you don’t vote, you’re not only giving up your voice, giving up your power, but you’re giving up your rights. And so this is a time for urgency, it is a time for folks to step up and get engaged.”

Eskamani says engagement involves more than attending marches and protests.

“You cannot just march. We need folks to register to vote. We need to folks to knock on doors. We need folks to talk about this issue at the kitchen table and on every platform that we can. Because time and time again we see especially abortion rights get side railed by other types of topics and we cannot let that happen again.”

The state’s voters have ranked other issues as more pressing, including jobs, the economy and education. UNF Political Scientist Enrijeta Shino says that could change if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But she says typically a single issue like abortion wouldn’t change election results.

“Is this issue going to be more important for the coming elections? Yes. Is it going to affect the election results? I’m a little bit more skeptical on that.”

Shino says regardless of how much the issue affects turnout and election results it’s likely to help Democrats more than Republicans. For now, it appears the GOP lawmakers are treading lightly on the issue until it’s clearer how the issue will affect them at the ballot box.

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