Planned Parenthood announces massive voter outreach ahead of 2020 election

Citizens inside Florida's Capitol building last April in protest of parental consent bill.

Planned Parenthood Votes, the political and advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, on Wednesday announced its largest electoral effort to date, with a goal of spending at least $45 million in nine battleground states in advance of the 2020 session, including Florida.

“We have an ambitious goal to reach more than half a million people in Florida,” said Laura Goodhue, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. The focus will be the presidential race, but also legislative contests as well as some county elections.

The campaign will include digital, television, and radio ads, but much of the work will be on the ground with volunteers going door-to-door to influence like-minded voters. Goodhue said the message will cover threats to reproductive health care, including access to “the full range of contraception, as well as abortion.”

There will be lots to talk about.

In a victory for abortion opponents, Planned Parenthood announced in August that it would no longer accept $60 million annually in federal funding that helped poor women pay for family planning. Officials cited a new Trump administration rule prohibiting referrals to doctors who perform abortions as why they had to withdraw from the program.

Meanwhile in Florida, two bills aimed at restricting abortion rights have been filed in the Florida Legislature in advance of the 2020 session.

Those include a proposal filed by Pensacola House Republican Mike Hill that would ban abortion after six weeks and criminalize the procedure. Similar proposals (all dubbed “heartbeat” laws) have been introduced throughout the country, although none has taken effect yet because of court challenges.

The measure would remove all exceptions, including for rape and incest or when a woman’s life would be at risk if her pregnancy were brought to full term.

Just introduced is a bill sponsored in the House by Vero Beach Republican Erin Grall and in the Senate by Lakeland’s Kelli Stargel that would prohibit doctors from performing abortions without explicit permission from a parent or guardian. The measure would not allow minors to petition a court to undergo the procedure.

Both bills were introduced during the spring 2019 session and didn’t pass. Hill’s bill never got a hearing, while the parental consent bill passed in the House but stalled in the Senate.

During the past year, both the U.S. and the Florida Supreme Court have grown more conservative, and Goodhue believes Stargel is setting up a hearing for her proposed legislation before the state’s highest court.

“We’re also going to be talking about the state Legislature and holding them accountable to voters,” Goodhue said.

“Already in the state Legislature, they have filed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country with a six-week ban. They’ve also filed legislation around parental consent around abortion, which is meant to challenge that strong privacy right in Florida’s constitution, so the advocacy organizations will be watching and holding legislators accountable for those votes.”

Goodhue added that Planned Parenthood Votes has not yet decided how much it will ultimately spend on the 2020 campaign in Florida.

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