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.