By Karen Barry Schwarz, Special to the Florida Catholic

What is Amendment 4?

Amendment 4 is a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would essentially establish an unlimited right to abortion throughout pregnancy even when the heartbeat of the preborn child is detected, when the preborn child can experience pain, and when the child is capable of living outside the womb. Amendment 4 will appear on the November 5, 2024, ballot and require approval from 60 percent of the electorate to pass.

Why is Amendment 4 so controversial?

Amendment 4 is an extreme proposal, essentially allowing abortion at any time for any reason, completely and dangerously unregulated. Since abortion is already legal in the state, with exceptions allowing access to abortion in a multitude of circumstances, this amendment to our state constitution is unnecessary, and has caused some confusion among Floridians. Further, the language of Amendment 4 is misleading, open to misinterpretation, and can be confusing in itself. The truth is, Amendment 4 is not what it seems, and it’s way too extreme, even for those who believe abortion should be legal in some circumstances.

Why should I vote NO on Amendment 4?

There are four very good reasons to vote NO on Amendment 4: Babies, Girls, Women and the State of Florida.

MORE BABIES AT RISK. Amendment 4 puts more BABIES at risk, allowing for second and third trimester abortions.

DETAIL: Babies are at risk from any abortion, of course, and the Catholic Church prays for a day when all abortion is unthinkable. However, in places where abortion is allowed, late-stage abortion is particularly gruesome.  The misleading language of Amendment 4 calls for “viability,” but does not define the term. But Florida law does define “viability,” and it is defined as the stage of development when the life of a fetus is sustainable outside the womb, generally accepted to be 22-24 weeks of pregnancy, or about six months. This means that if Amendment 4 is passed, second and even third trimester abortions will be allowed!  Is this what we want for our state? NO. Current Florida law allows abortion, up to six weeks gestation.

PUTS GIRLS AT RISK. Amendment 4 puts GIRLS at risk, eliminating the requirement of parental consent for minors.

DETAIL: While preserving parental “notification” in our state constitution, Amendment 4 would invalidate and eliminate the current law that requires parental “consent” for a minor to have an abortion. This part of Amendment 4’s language is particularly misleading, as many are fooled by the word “notification,” thinking it implies “consent.” It does not! Requiring only “notification,” which is likely to reach parents after the fact, puts girls at risk of making dangerous, permanent, and life-altering decisions for themselves and their babies without the guidance of their parents. This would make abortion the only medical decision for a minor in which parents have no say. Is this what we want for girls, and their families, in Florida? NO.

PUTS WOMEN AT RISK. Amendment 4 puts WOMEN at risk, weakening the medical doctor requirement.

DETAIL: “Healthcare providers” – not just physicians – could determine if an abortion is “necessary” to protect the mother’s “health.” Even some employees of abortion clinics, such as nurses and counselors, could approve dangerous, late-term abortions! Is this how we want women to be taken care of in Florida? NO.

OUR STATE CONSTITUTION. Amendment 4, if passed, would make Florida one of the most pro-abortion states in the country, turning us into an “Abortion Tourism” state.

DETAIL: The language in Amendment 4 creates a broad “health” loophole, allowing abortion for just about any reason, at any time. “Patient’s health” is not defined in the amendment, allowing post-viability, extremely late-term abortions for treatable, temporary health concerns. Emotional health, for example, would justify an abortion when a child could survive outside the womb! This kind of loophole allows broadscale access to abortion and would make Florida one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation. Since the Roe v. Wade ruling was overturned, abortion laws now rest in the hands of the states. Since many states have recently restricted or outlawed abortion, those states that have passed sweeping, widespread abortion laws are now designated “Abortion Tourism” states, with people traveling, often illegally, to those states to seek an abortion. Is this what we want for our state?  NO.

Many are under the wrong general impression about Amendment 4, believing that it would simply restore Florida back to when Roe v. Wade was in effect. This is not true. The fact is that Amendment 4 goes dangerously beyond what was permitted in the Roe v. Wade ruling. It would eliminate important health and safety measures that protect women, remove parental consent for any minor seeking an abortion, and allow for abortion through the third trimester of pregnancy. Further, it would make our state one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation. Four strong reasons to vote NO on Amendment 4!

Some – those who are in favor of legal abortion in some circumstances – think that Amendment 4 would simply allow access to abortion for women in crisis in Florida. But – abortion is already legal in Florida! If Amendment 4 does not pass, abortion would still be legal in Florida until a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, and in certain other, life-threatening or extreme circumstances. Current, common sense laws that protect the safety of women and girls, would remain in effect!

What is the Catholic Church doing to help pregnant women in need?

The Catholic Church is committed to helping women in need during and after pregnancies. For decades, numerous Catholic social service agencies, in collaboration with faith-based and secular organizations, have assisted pregnant women in need with material resources and personal accompaniment during pregnancy and after their child is born.

Walking with Moms in Need, a nationwide program initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, operates at the Parish level, to increase support for pregnant and parenting mothers in need. It works to ensure that any woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, or parenting in difficult circumstances, can turn to her local Catholic Church and be connected with the resources she needs. As Pope Francis reminds us, Parishes need to be “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.”

In Florida, each Catholic diocese is working together, through the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at, to help Floridians understand the dangers of Amendment 4 to women, their children, and their families. The Church supports the Florida Voters Against Extremism at coalition to educate voters on how Amendment 4 is harmful.

What can I do to help defeat Amendment 4?

  • Learn the facts about the proposed Amendment 4, as well as the details of current Florida law allowing abortion, and tell your friends!
  • Pray, and fast, for the defeat of this dangerous pro-abortion amendment.
  • Vote NO on Amendment 4 in this fall’s General Election! Amendment 4 is not what it seems, and it’s way too extreme.

Where can I learn more? 

For more information visit:

Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at

Diocese of Venice Office of Respect Life at

Florida Voters Against Extremism at

Want to get involved?

Contact the Diocese’s Director of Respect Life Jeanne Berdeaux, at, or 941-374-1068.

News Briefs for the week of May 24, 2024

Vote No on 4!  Spread the word.

To learn the facts about Amendment 4 and how it is designed to mislead voters, visit the websites of the Florida Voters Against Extremism,, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops,, and the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office, To get involved and help defeat this dangerous pro-abortion amendment, contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Director of Respect Life,, 941-374-1068.

Students meet pen pals

Third grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton had the opportunity to meet their cursive pen pals from nearby Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish at a year-end party on May 16, 2024. As part of this enrichment, students and volunteers exchanged letters that would then help develop the penmanship skills of the third graders. It was a wonderful experience for all involved, and they enjoyed a fun-filled celebration with great conversations and lots of smiles.

Urgent need for sidewalk counselors and prayer partners in Fort Myers and Naples

As the weather turns hotter there is an urgent need for sidewalk counselors and prayer partners to provide coverage to stand as peaceful witnesses for life at the Planned Parenthood abortion facilities at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers. and 1425 Creech Road, Naples. No training is necessary to be a prayer partner – just bring a hat and a rosary. For those interested in counseling, training and necessary resource materials will be provided. In addition, during this process an experienced counselor will be present. Prayer partners and counselors are a vital component in the Pro-Life movement, as they ensure a constant presence in front of abortion facilities, showing that women, and their unborn children, in crisis are not abandoned in their time of need. To learn more details, please call Mary Claire Dant at 239-200-8117.

Ordination to the Priesthood June 8

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Greg as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Totus Tuus, Parish Catechetical Summer Program coming soon

The Totus Tuus Parish Catechetical Summer Camp program, open to grades 1-12, will be available in the Diocese of Venice again this summer beginning in June 2024. Totus Tuus aims to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. All camps are one-week day camps, and programs are divided according to age. Youth are welcome to attend any of the Totus Tuus camps, but registration is requested ahead of time. Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this year are: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Parrish, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park (June 2-7); Ave Maria, Ave Maria (June 9-14); St. Finbarr, Naples, and St. Paul, Arcadia (June 16-21); Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, and St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral (June 23-28); Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle (July 7-12); Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, and St. Cecilia, Fort Myers (July 14-19); Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Peter the Apostle, Naples (July 21-26). To register, contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at  For general questions about the Diocesan Totus Tuus program, please visit, or contact Jim Gontis at

Retreat For Mothers Grieving the Loss of a Child

Red Bird Ministries, a non-profit Catholic grief support ministry, is hosting a Grieving Mother’s Retreat from June 7 – 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. This retreat is for women who have experienced the loss of a child at any age, from pregnancy through adulthood.  Mothers will be helped in addressing the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child throughout their grief journey. Please visit for information and registration.

Ave Maria Youth Conference registration open

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to attend the 15th Annual Ave Maria University High School Youth Conference, “CALLED,” from July 12 – 14, 2024. This faith-filled weekend will be full of fellowship, music, and great speakers, including Father Timothy Anastos from the Diocese of Chicago who is currently serving as a National Eucharistic Preacher and featured regularly on “Reel Homilies”, Noelle Garcia a Catholic recording artist who shares her faith through scripture and music, nationally known chastity speaker Pam Stenzel, and Father Joseph Lugalambi, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. Music will be provided by EPIC Music Ministries. The cost is $190 per person, which includes lodging in the dorms, meals, conference fee, and a cool t-shirt! Register now by visiting For more information call 239- 348-4725, or email


Advocacy Workshops Share How to Defeat Florida’s Pro-Abortion Amendment

By Karen Barry Schwarz – Special to the Florida Catholic

More than 150 Pro-Life leaders from the Diocese of Venice attended Pro-Life Advocacy Workshops this week, with the impassioned goal of learning how to defeat Amendment 4, Florida’s dangerous, misleading Pro-Abortion Amendment which will be on the ballot this fall. The workshops were held at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota on May 13, 2024, and at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers on May 15.

Both workshops included lunch and opened with a prayer from the hosting Pastor. The workshops were presented by The Leadership Institute, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, in cooperation with the Diocese’s Respect Life Office and its director, Jeanne Berdeaux, with the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who was pleased to hear of the enthusiastic turnout. Dena Espenscheid, the Institute’s Director of Pro-Life Training and Senior Director of Coalitions led the sessions. Espenscheid is an experienced Pro-Life advocate, and an expert in how to persuade voters and win elections.

Various strategies were presented, and Espenscheid’s main message was that education about the amendment is key. Jeanne Berdeaux, Director of Respect Life for the Diocese of Venice, echoed the critical importance of education.

“The language in Amendment 4 is misleading, and easy to misunderstand,” Berdeaux said. “The fact is, this Amendment is way too extreme, as it would enshrine completely unregulated, unrestricted abortion in our state constitution. I don’t think this is what people want. The more we can educate people about what it really means for our state, the more likely we are going to defeat this deceitful Amendment.”

Espenscheid explained that the current law in Florida, the Heartbeat Protection Law, already has in its provisions what most people who are for some form of legal abortion want.

Specifically, Espenscheid said in order to defeat this Amendment, the message that needs to be communicated is “Vote No on Amendment 4,” and “Amendment 4 is way too extreme,” not the broader, Catholic message that all life, from conception to natural death is sacred.

Although the message of the sanctity of life is clearly important, and a fundamental Catholic belief, the fact is that many people – even some Catholics – feel that in some circumstances abortion should be legal.

Espenscheid explained how there is simply not enough time between now and the election to convince those people to become Pro-Life.  However, there is a good chance of convincing everyone that Amendment 4 is way too extreme, and far inferior to the current Florida law that allows abortion only until a heartbeat is detected, and in other extenuating circumstances, such as rape, or incest.

Espenscheid pointed out that Amendment 4 seeks to remove “government interference” with abortion, but what this really means is that it seeks to remove any government regulation of abortion at all. This includes important safety measures, such as who is allowed to recommend or perform abortions, or minimal facility sanitation requirements. Amendment 4 presents a dangerous proposition not only for babies, as it allows for very late-term abortions, but also for women, who would no longer be protected by laws regulating the procedure.

“For those who think abortion should be legal, it already is, in the state of Florida,” Espenscheid said. “The Heartbeat Protection Law is a reasonable law and restricts abortion but for those circumstances which we know most people – even some Catholics – feel should be considered. There is no need to expand the law and remove the commonsense protections for women, and minors, that are currently in place.”

Regarding minors, Espenscheid was referring to the fact that Amendment 4 eliminates the need for a minor to have a parent’s consent before having an abortion; the Amendment would only require “notification.”

In closing, Espenscheid was adamant in telling the groups that “Nothing ever got passed, or defeated, without action.”  Emphatically emphasizing the importance of gathering and mobilizing volunteers, Espenscheid detailed effective ways to empower and motivate people, and highlighted various methods of educating Floridians, including the tried and true methods of Parish communications, lawn signs, phone banking, and old-fashioned door-knocking, which is “only hard in the beginning,” she said.

Most people will have decided, and at least mentally locked in their vote by September 1, Espenscheid said, so the education and persuasion work must be completed by then to work. The Amendment requires a 60 percent super majority to pass in November.

Vote No on 4!  Spread the word.

To learn the facts about Amendment 4 and how it is designed to mislead voters, visit the websites of the Florida Voters Against Extremism,, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops,, and the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office,

To get involved and help defeat this dangerous pro-abortion amendment, contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Director of Respect Life,, 941-374-1068.

Prayer to Defeat Florida’s Abortion Amendment

Prayer to Defeat Florida’s Abortion Amendment (English)

Ever-living God, you give life and desire a future for all your children. Take hold of our nation, state, and community and awaken in every heart awe for the gift of life. Send your Spirit to strengthen us with wisdom and fortitude as we defend mothers and children in Florida from laws that disregard their health and safety.

Mary and Joseph trusted in you and welcomed Jesus into our broken world. God Almighty, we ask their intercession to protect the preborn and their mothers, and to guide all parents in raising their children. May they help us build a civilization of love by upholding the sacredness of life and accompanying pregnant women in need. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady, Mother of the Family, pray for us!

St. Joseph, Protector of the Unborn, pray for us!

Oremos Para Derrotar la Enmienda del Aborto en Florida (Espanol)

Dios eterno: Tú das la vida y deseas un futuro para todos tus hijos. Apodérate de nuestra nación, estado y comunidad, y despierta en cada corazón la admiración por el regalo de la vida. Envía tu Espíritu para reforzarnos con sabiduría y fortaleza mientras defendemos a las madres y a los niños de Florida de las leyes que desprecian su salud y su seguridad.

María y José confiaron en ti y recibieron a Jesús en nuestro mundo quebrantado. Dios todopoderoso, pedimos que ellos intercedan para proteger a los niños por nacer y a sus madres, y dirigir a todos los padres y madres en la crianza de sus hijos. Que nos ayuden a construir la civilización del amor al defender el carácter sagrado de la vida y acompañar a las mujeres embarazadas que así lo necesiten. Te lo pedimos por Cristo, nuestro Señor. Amén.

Nuestra Señora, Madre de la Familia, ¡ruega por nosotros!

San José, Protector de los No Nacidos, ¡ruega por nosotros!


Courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops