In Tampa, Biden will assail Florida’s six-week abortion ban as he tries to boost his reelection odds

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is wading deeper into the abortion rights battle that Democrats have been fighting since the fall of Roe. Wade has given energy. He travels to Florida to attack the state’s upcoming ban and similar restrictions that have compromised access to care for pregnant women. women across the country.

Tuesday’s campaign visit to Tampa puts Biden at the epicenter of the latest fight over abortion restrictions. The state’s six-week abortion ban will take effect May 1, at the same time Florida voters prepare to pass a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution.

Biden is seeking to capitalize on the ongoing momentum against abortion restrictions across the country to not only support his re-election bid in the battleground states he won in 2020, but also to go on the offensive against Donald Trump in states that see the presumptive Republican nominee in four years ago won. One of those states is Florida, where Biden lost to Trump by 3.3 percentage points.

At the same time, advocates on the ground say support for abortion access cuts across parties. They plan to make the issue as nonpartisan as possible as they work to gather at least 60% voter support for the ballot initiative.

That could mean, in some cases, that Florida voters would split their fate, supporting Republican candidates while supporting the abortion measure.

“I think normal people are aware that a candidate campaign is very different from a ballot initiative,” said Lauren Brenzel, campaign manager for Floridians Protecting Freedom, which collected signatures to put the abortion issue before voters. “You can vote for your preferred candidate from any political party and still disagree with them on every single issue.”

Brenzel continued, “This gives voters an opportunity to have their message heard on one policy platform.”

On the same day, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ballot measure could go before voters, but also upheld the 15-week abortion ban. That then paved the way for the new ban on the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, often before women know they are pregnant, which comes into effect next week.

Organizers of the abortion ballot initiative say they have collected nearly 1.5 million signatures to bring the issue to voters’ attention, although the state has stopped counting at just under one million. About 891,500 signatures were needed. Of the total signatures, about 35% came from registered Republican voters or those not affiliated with a party, organizers said.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat, said that if the abortion ballot initiative is branded as a partisan political effort, “it just makes it harder to get to 60%.” Eskamani, who worked at Planned Parenthood before running for political office, said she encourages the Biden administration to focus broadly on the impact of a six-week ban and let the ballot measure speak for itself.

“Ultimately, the ballot initiative will be a multimillion-dollar campaign that is very much a stand-alone campaign,” Eskamani said.

While in Florida, Biden is sure to go on the attack against his general election challenger, who has said abortion is an issue for states to decide.

Trump’s campaign did not respond when asked whether the former president, a Florida voter, would oppose or support the ballot measure. In an NBC interview last September, Trump called Florida’s six-week ban “terrible.” But he has repeatedly highlighted the justices he has tapped before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose 2022 ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion paved the way for such restrictions to be imposed.

Trump and other Republicans are aware that voter opposition to new abortion restrictions could pose a serious threat this fall.

Abortion rights advocates have won every time the issue has been put to voters, including in deeply conservative states like Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio. Last month, a Democrat in a suburban Alabama state House district wrested the seat from Republican control by campaigning for abortion rights, weeks after in vitro fertilization services were halted in the state.

Nikki Fried, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said Florida will be a competitive state at the presidential level “because of the extremism that has come out of Florida.” There are no Democrats in statewide elected positions and no Democrat has won the state at the presidential level since 2012, but state party officials have found some glimpses of political change in many smaller races, such as the open Jacksonville mayoral race last May, marking a victory for Democrats in what was once a solidly Republican city.

In addition to the abortion initiative, Florida residents will also vote later this fall on a ballot measure on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, which could also undermine turnout and enthusiasm in favor of Democrats.

Republicans have been dismissive of the Biden campaign and the broader Democratic Party’s efforts to use abortion as a political cudgel, arguing that other issues will be more important to voters in November.

“Florida’s most important issues are immigration, the economy and inflation; in all three areas, Joe Biden has failed,” said Republican Party Chairman Evan Power. .”