Florida Supreme Court
Florida’s Supreme Court allowed for an abortion ballot initiative to appear before voters in November. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington) Brendan Farrington/AP

Florida’s Newly Enacted Six-Week Abortion Ban Opens a Path for Democrats

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling, which also allowed for an abortion ballot initiative this November, “absolutely puts Florida into the top tier of swing states,” one Democratic strategist told NOTUS.

The Florida Supreme Court just made Democrats’ abortion message even more salient in the 2024 election.

The court allowed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban to take effect in 30 days while also clearing the way for an abortion initiative — which would enshrine abortion access up to the point of viability — to be on the ballot in November.The ruling will decimate abortion access in the South. With a total ban on abortion in neighboring Alabama and a six-week ban in place in Georgia, Florida has the most abortion clinics and providers in the region — access that will become heavily restricted next month.

Democrats have already responded to the ruling, calling on Floridians to come to the ballot box in November and vote in favor of abortion rights and their candidates. President Joe Biden’s campaign issued its strongest verbal commitment to date on investing in Florida this election cycle after the ruling.

“We are entering the general election with multiple pathways to 270 electoral votes — something Team Trump is not afforded. That includes investing in Florida as a pathway to victory,” the campaign wrote in a memo. The Biden team pointed to a $25 million campaign launch last fall and a $30 million ad buy this spring that both reached Florida. “Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden,” the memo said.

While some have warned that an abortion ballot initiative on its own wouldn’t be a “cure-all,” as recently suspended Miami-Dade party Chair Robert Dempster told NOTUS, Democratic strategists say the enforcement of the six-week abortion ban will make the issue even more tangible for Florida voters.

“This development in terms of what will now be on the ballot in Florida is massive. I think it absolutely puts Florida into the top tier of swing states,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist. “For Republicans in Florida and for Donald Trump in Florida, for them to win, they need to win over the support of a pretty significant share of voters in Florida who will vote for the pro-abortion rights position … and I think that puts them in a difficult position.”

The six-week ban “really sharpens the messaging,” Osceola Democratic Chair Steve Wells told NOTUS. “This is now a real thing that’ll affect real Floridians and their real everyday life.”

Florida Democrats have been touting abortion and the state’s property insurance crisis as the leading campaign issues this cycle, but they’ll need investment from the national party.

“Florida voters will stand up for women’s freedom to make their most personal medical decisions by rejecting this abortion ban and firing Rick Scott from the Senate,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Maeve Coyle said after the ruling.

Abortion ballot initiatives don’t always guarantee Democratic wins. The campaign pushing Florida’s abortion initiative doesn’t align itself with a specific party.

And after six years of statewide losses and cratering political infrastructure, Democrats are still facing an uphill battle in Florida. Democrats trail Republicans by almost a million registered voters in the state.

“The Democratic Party needs to rebuild themselves; it cannot be reliant on other issues,” state House Rep. Anna Eskamani told NOTUS, adding that making the ballot initiative a “partisan” issue was “incredibly shortsighted.”

Still, Eskamani noted that she believes voters associate abortion restrictions with Republicans: “The dichotomy we see in this country is that it’s Republicans who are the ones aggressively taking away our rights and Democrats who are not, and so, you know, I think Florida will be more on the map, without a doubt.”

The state is a riskier gamble than other swing states for the Biden campaign, partly because of how expensive Florida’s media market is. The Biden campaign essentially wrote off the state in 2020, forging its path to 270 elsewhere.

But it seems the most recent ruling may change that calculus in 2024.

Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried immediately posted a fundraising pitch on X in response to Biden’s memo: “Florida is only winnable if we do the work. Join Us,” she wrote, later posting, “Florida is in play!”

Correction: This article previously misstated how much money in a Biden ad campaign went toward Florida last fall. The $25 million advertising campaign included Florida in its reach.

Claire Heddles is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.