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NO to Amendment 6, Which Would Further Limit Florida's Right to Privacy Clause

October 4, 2012 - 6:00pm

One thing that many conservatives and liberals agree on is a right to privacy. Many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum oppose overreaching government.

Proposed Amendment 6, also known as Initiative 6, would further limit the right to privacy clause approved by voters in 1980 as Article I, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution.

Article 23 reads: Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person's private life except as otherwise provided herein ..."

States are permitted to create greater rights than in the U.S. Constitution, but may not limit those federal constitutional rights.

Florida voters voted in 2004 partially to repeal Article 23 for minors to enable a parental notice law. The 2005 Legislature passed such a law, requiring parents to be notified, if they could be found, that their children were seeking an abortion. (There is a judicial bypass that exempts girls who can get a circuit judge to find they are sufficiently mature to decide.)

The 2011 Legislature with House Joint Resolution 1179 attempted to repeal more of the Florida Privacy Amendment. The joint resolution created proposed Amendment 6 that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The second of two provisions is much more far-reaching. It specifies that the Florida Constitution could not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the U.S. Constitution. All of that extra Florida privacy right would be repealed. Florida case law from the courts would be nullified. Floridians would have less privacy and freedom from government intrusion.

The first part of the proposed amendment would prohibit public funds for abortions or health insurance covering the procedure with three exemptions for life of the woman, rape or incest, or a federally required expenditure. This language already appears in the federal Hyde Amendment and would clutter the Florida Constitution.

There is no problem that needs to be fixed. In 2009-2010 Medicaid paid for only four abortions for low-income women at a total of $534.60, according to the legislative staff analysis of the 2011 House joint resolution.

At present low-income women who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage are barely able to to make their own choice to terminate their pregnancy. A woman who got cancer while pregnant and could not pay medical expenses would have to carry her pregnancy to term to get public assistance for treatment. The wait of those extra months to begin radiation and chemotherapy could result in greater spread of the cancer and thus surgical removal of more diseased tissue and disfigurement, and even a sooner death.

Not all religions prohibit abortion. Jewish law, the precursor for Christian law, does not. As Sarah Krinsky of the Religion Action Center for Reform Judaism remarked, "As Jews, we are taught that if the health (physical or mental), sanity, or self-esteem of the mother is at stake, abortions are permitted under our legal tradition. We have an obligation to care for the health of our entire community, not just those fortunate enough to afford their own private health insurance."

Linda Miklowitz has been president of Tallahassee and Florida National Organization for Women. She has represented young women in judicial bypass proceedings in circuit court to be adjudicated mature enough to make their own decisions and be exempted from the Florida Parental Notice law of 2005. She is a proud mother of two grown children by choice.

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