More than half of Florida residents oppose the ban on abortion. Will they resist in the elections?

For Wendy Vargas, the recent removal of the constitutional right to abortion and the banning of the procedure in many Republican-controlled states is an affront to her values ​​as a woman and an American.

“This is supposed to be a first world country,” said the 32-year-old Colombian immigrant and Republican-leaning independent voter. “We should have more freedom here.”

But will an attack on abortion rights determine how Vargas votes?

Both major parties are asking this question ahead of the November midterm elections. With a majority of voters across the country supporting the right to abortion, Democrats are making it a central issue in swing states, while Republicans are hoping to avoid a backlash that could dampen the “red wave” that polls and pundits predicted.

This tension is particularly acute in Florida, where Republicans dominate the political landscape, but 56% of people believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Federal data shows that only New York and Illinois have higher abortion rates.

Vargas, who helped propel Republican Ron DeSantis for governor with her 2018 vote, has yet to decide whether she will support his re-election bid. Her opposition to the Republican stance on abortion is countered by the economic concerns she places on the Democrats.

“For example, inflation,” said Vargas, who runs a mobile phone store. “What crazy prices for everything. Everything is going up.”

DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature have been more cautious than their counterparts in Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and other red states where most voters oppose abortion.

While most of these states had laws banning abortion in almost all cases after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Roe. Wade last month, Florida, only tightened its restrictions on banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy – up from 24 – with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Hours after Row DeSantis fell promised to “expand the protection of life”. But he hasn’t focused on abortion, a decision political scientists say is aimed at avoiding alienating swing voters, who make up about a quarter of the state’s electorate.

His campaign is likely to highlight the faltering national economy, high gas prices and parental rights, and the teaching of race, sexual orientation and gender identity in schools – issues that fuel Republican support at the national level. Florida voter registration records show that the number of Democratic voters in the state fell by nearly 100,000 in the first five months of this year.

“Abortion is not a high-level issue,” said Steve Vankor, a sociologist who owns Clearview Research in Tallahassee and is a Democrat. “Ron DeSantis wins by a landslide.”

Historically, pro-life advocates for one issue have tended to be anti-abortion. Democrats hope to change that now that abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right.

“I believe that we will mobilize and work to try to get the Democratic choice back in the Senate to stop this policy,” the Florida state senator said. Lauren Book, minority leader. “Due to the fact that Row was capsized, we know that it was left to the states. And that’s why we take care of business here.”

Rep. Anna V. Escamany, an Orlando Democrat who formerly worked for Planned Parenthood, organized downtown rallies to protest Roe’s reversal and launched a virtual phone bank calling registered independent and Democratic women to encourage them to mobilize and vote.

“If you care not only about abortion rights, but about all of our collective freedoms, you must intervene now and help us build political power in the long term,” she said.

While DeSantis hasn’t pushed for an outright ban on abortion, Democrats warn that he plans to do just that to shore up the national Republican base as he awaits the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Escamani said. “If Governor DeSantis is re-elected, abortion will be completely banned. No questions.”

Such messages are mainly aimed at young voters, who usually don’t vote in midterm elections but are most at risk when it comes to abortions.

Thousands of protesters, most of them young men, took to the streets of Orlando last week holding signs reading “Listen to the women” and “God gives me freedom of choice. Why can not you?”

“If you don’t vote, you silence yourself,” said one of the protesters, Melanie Ramos, a 22-year-old Disney call center employee who grew up in a traditional Christian home in Miami and was taught that abortion is a sin. .

“I definitely feel like Florida is becoming one of those traditional Southern states where everything is taken from women,” she said. “I’m afraid of what they will end up doing.”

In interviews, some women who had little interest in politics said they were worried about losing longstanding abortion rights.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Vanese LeBron, a 30-year-old paralegal from Kissimmee, south of Orlando. “This is an attack on women and a step back for women. They watch what we can do with our own bodies.”

LeBron, who had an abortion at 25 because she felt her then-boyfriend was not ready to help raise the child, said she votes in presidential elections but usually misses midterms.

She now feels motivated to vote against DeSantis and other Republicans in November. But she worried that some of her closest friends and even her mother seemed indifferent.

“It’s just crazy that people don’t take it seriously,” she said. – Will there be a rollback?

LeBron’s parents hail from Puerto Rico and Mexico and are part of a growing Hispanic presence that also includes recent waves of immigrants from Colombia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Hispanic voters, who make up 18% of the state’s electorate, have traditionally favored Democrats, but that support is dwindling and enough Republicans have voted in 2020 to help Donald Trump win Florida. Republicans see them as natural allies on culture war issues, including abortion.

Maria Gonzalez, 33, a nurse from Venezuela, said her pastor at St. The Peter and Paul Catholic Church north of Orlando celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision as the will of God.

“We vote based on our faith,” said the mother of two. “We tend to be very conservative. If you ask anyone who is not Gen Z, they will all be for this governor and rule because of our faith.

“If you want an abortion, go to California,” she said.

In a tribute to churches with many Hispanic voters, DeSantis signed into law in April a 15-week abortion law at Nación de Fe, an evangelical community in Kissimmee.

But Latin American abortion rights activists are now trying to get a new message across to the younger generation.

“You are not a slave to patriarchy or machismo, you are not even a slave to the church,” said Nancy Rosado, 66, a clinical social worker. “You have free will to make your own decisions. That’s what God gave you.”

Stephanie Lorraine Pinheiro, 30, co-executive director of the Florida Access Network, an Orlando-based abortion foundation that offers women seeking gas abortions and childcare scholarships, said she sees other opportunities to penetrate.

“My grandmother, God bless her, doesn’t know how to talk about abortion politics, but she understands very well that you can’t force someone to stay pregnant against their will,” Pinheiro said. “She’s not going to protest in the streets, but if someone she loves needs an abortion, she’ll support.”

Pinheiro said that when she was a teenager, her father took her to have an abortion, but on the way home, he chastised her that she needed to cover her legs.

Still, her best hope for restoring abortion rights across the country, she said, would be federal legislation passed while the Democrats still control Congress, because she doesn’t see much chance of beating the Republicans in the next election.

“Right-wing fundamentalism and white supremacy will not disappear, they will not disappear as a result of voting,” she said, arguing for the well-known thesis that restrictions on abortion hurt minorities the most. “I don’t want to be gloomy, but I don’t hold my breath. In the United States, there is much to rage about.”

Political calculation emboldened Florida anti-abortion activists. Andrew Shirwell, executive director of the Florida Voice for the Unborn, said after speaking with a senior DeSantis office official, he was confident the governor would call a special session to pass a near-total abortion ban before the end of the year.

“I don’t think the Democrats will say anything,” he said. “Florida will eventually become one of the nation’s leading pro-life states.”