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Biden on abortion rights: President expects to give speech Tuesday on new Florida 6-week ban

‘Having the president of the United States speaking out loud and with confidence about abortion access is a great thing’

By Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix - April 22, 2024
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Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks on the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act during an event in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 16, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden is scheduled to make a rare campaign appearance Tuesday in Florida, where he is expected to give a speech in Tampa about the new law that will prohibit most abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy, starting on May 1.

The implementation of the new ban is expected to have a ripple effect across the Southeast, as women from nearby states have traveled to Florida to access legal abortion over the past two years.  That led to more than 7,000 abortions performed by doctors in Florida, according to a report from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

“Having the president of the United States speaking out loud and with confidence about abortion access is a great thing,” says Amy Weintraub, the reproductive rights program director with Progress Florida.

Floridians will have the ability to reverse the six-week abortion ban if they approve Amendment 4 in November, which would allow abortions up to the time of viability. That measure needs 60% support from voters, which is why organizers have emphasized that support for abortion rights is a nonpartisan issue.

“It’s not related,” says Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, the organization working to get the constitutional amendment passed, when asked about Biden coming to Florida to speak about reproductive rights. “He’s running a political campaign, and we’re running a ballot initiative campaign.”

But Florida Democrats have been targeting presumptive Republican presidential nominee — former President Donald Trump — and Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott for weeks on their record on abortion rights and show no signs of slowing down.

Whether it will be a winning issue on the November ballot isn’t clear. A survey from Florida Atlantic University Political Communication and Public Opinion Research Lab and Mainstreet Research, released last week, shows that abortion ranks fourth among the most important issues to Florida voters, behind immigration, the economy and the cost-of-living.

Also on the Amendment 4 abortion rights measure, 49% supported the measure, 19% opposed, and 32% said they didn’t know.

Retired University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus isn’t certain if abortion rights will help out Democrats on the ballot in the fall. She says one likely demographic that could be motivated by abortion rights is younger voters, who don’t appear to be all that excited to vote for the 81-year-old Biden in November. Trump is 77.

“It’s got to be the amendment itself, and I find it very interesting that both sides are using the ‘freedom angle’ – freedom to this and freedom for that,” she says.

Brenzel says those numbers show that abortion rights in Florida is not a partisan issue.

“We have 30% of people, they’ve heard the political messaging from both sides and that’s not what’s going to motivate them,” she says.  “What’s going to motivate them is hearing directly from Floridians who have been impacted by these horrible bans who have been passed by politicians. We need to get these politicians – whatever party they’re from – out of these private medical decisions so that they can be between a patient and their doctor, and that’s the story that we’re going to tell Floridians in the upcoming seven months.”

Weintraub says support for Amendment 4 will rise once the impacts of the six-week ban go into effect.

“The near total abortion ban which we are going to be facing on May 1 is going to bring about a public health crisis for Florida and for the whole south,” she says. “And it is going to deny care that is part of every modern health care system and it is a travesty that our extremists politicians have brought this on.”

Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have all passed total abortion bans, while Georgia has had a six-week law in effect since 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

This will be Biden’s first campaign related event in Florida in more than a year, when he spoke at the University of Tampa in February of 2023. He did appear in South Florida to raise money in January and visited the state last September to survey the damage inflicted in the Big Bend area after Hurricane Idalia hit. Vice President Kamala Harris has made several appearance in the state over the past year.

This story was originally published by the Florida Phoenix


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