One of the constitutional amendments on the ballot this November takes on the controversial and politically charged issue of abortion.
Amendment 6, if passed, would prohibit public funding for abortions in the state, but it would also take away a right to privacy explicitly contained in Florida’s Constitution.
This has women’s rights activists in the state up in arms over concerns that this could be the beginning of greater abortion restrictions.
A Right To Privacy
More than two decades ago, Doris Rosen from Pasco County became a women’s rights activist.
At the time, then-Gov. Bob Martinez asked the Legislature to draft laws that would restrict access to abortion.
States all over the country were taking a closer look at their abortion laws in 1989, because of a Supreme Court ruling.
But Martinez also set his sights on the “right to privacy” provision of state law. It had been added to Florida’s Constitution less than a decade before.
When that happened, activists like Doris Rosen stormed the state’s capitol.
“We marched on Tallahassee. I remember walking down Apalachee Parkway to the Capitol. That was my first march and there were over 10,000 women and men marching to leave that right to privacy alone in the Florida Constitution-- and it remained.”
Anti-abortion activists say Florida’s right to privacy law goes much farther than the U.S. Constitution.
Under state law, minors must notify their parent or guardian before having an abortion. But they don’t need their parent’s consent.
In 1989, the state Supreme Court cited privacy provisions in the Florida constitution to strike down a parental consent law.
“We are very concerned about the rights of parents and the parent’s rights to be involved a children’s decision to have an abortion was taken away,” Sheila Hopkins, spokeswoman for the Florida Catholic Conference in Tallahassee, says. “Our grave concern is for the parents who believe they have the right to work with their minor child on many different levels on giving permission for things like field trips and medications and all, but are shocked to find that their minor child can receive an abortion without their permission or consent,” Hopkins says.
Hopkins says passing Amendment 6 would help get that consent law back.
“So, we are trying to right a wrong as we see it,” Hopkins says. “And the only way they can get back parental consent for a minor’s abortion is if we pass this amendment. Then, this does not automatically restore it, but it would give a future legislature the ability to pass legislation to bring back parental consent.”
That’s exactly what Rosen fears.
If the amendment passes, she predicts an onslaught of new legislation aimed at limiting abortion that goes beyond consent laws.
The Fight Over Amendment 6
Supporters of the amendment include the Florida Conference on Catholic Bishops, Florida Right to Life, and the Archdioceses of Miami and St. Petersburg.
The ACLU of Florida and Planned Parenthood both have large campaigns aimed at stopping the amendment.
So far, opponents of Amendment 6 have out-raised supporters 10 to 1.
One more money issue: the amendment also adds language to the state Constitution that says taxpayer money cannot pay for abortions, with the exception of cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
However, a federal law already prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions.
Rosen says she is disappointed that she’s still fighting the same battle over privacy rights two decades later.
“Well it troubles me because now am I not only fighting this for my daughter, but I am fighting it for her daughter," she says. "I want her to be able to make the decision at that she feels are right for her at that particular time.”
This story is part of a collaboration with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. For more information on this year's ballot measures-- including endorsements, explanations and funding-- go to Votersedge.org.