Both Sides Of Abortion Amendment 6 Make Case To Florida Voters

Oct 19, 2012

With about 11 constitutional amendments on the November ballot, we’re continuing our series by exploring one of the most talked about amendments: Amendment 6. It essentially would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions, except in certain cases, and there are several campaigns for both sides of the issue. While some say a vote “yes” would allow politicians to interfere with a women’s right to choose, others say a vote “no” would block future attempts to allow parents to have a say if their child wants an abortion.

“She presented to the Emergency Room in dire straits, bleeding to death.”

Dr.  Randy Armstrong, a practicing physician in Florida, is recounting his experience with a 14-year-old girl he had to take care of who came to the Emergency Room because of complications of an abortion. He says it was then he found out the girl had gotten an abortion without her parent’s permission.

“We had to operate on that young lady two times to save her life, and at the end of all of that, she will be unable to even bare children," said  Armstrong. "Her parents had no knowledge this was going on. The only way, they knew about this, was the hospital contacted them to make sure they were aware they were responsible for her hospital bills.”

Armstrong is also the President of Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights and part of the “Say Yes on 6” campaign, a movement to get people to vote for Amendment 6.

The proposed amendment would ban the use of public funds for abortion, except in special cases, including rape, incest, or threats to a mother’s life. It would also overrule court decisions, which say privacy rights in the state constitution are greater than the federal constitution.

And, opponents, like Jessica Lowe-Minor with the League of Women Voters, say they’re concerned that right to privacy is being attacked, and they think it’s something Floridians should reject.

“Well, essentially we have statement in our constitution that says every natural person has a right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into that person’s private life," said Lowe-Minor. "And, what this amendment seeks to do is say that right to privacy, that sentence, does not apply to abortion rights. Well, once they say that sentence does not apply to abortion rights, that that sentence doesn’t apply to other areas of our lives as well.”

But, Dr. Armstrong disagrees, saying that just means the amendment just creates a balance between the state and federal laws. He says he’s really campaigning on behalf of parents, like that of the 14-year-old girl, who deserve a voice, and urges people to vote “yes” on the amendment.  

And, Sheila Hopkins with Florida Catholic Conference agrees. Her group too is backing the amendment because it would strengthen parental rights.

“There was a constitutional amendment passed back in 2004. However, at this time, there is still no consent required," said Hopkins. "So, a minor daughter, who can’t have her ears pierced, take medicine at school, or go on a field trip at school without parent’s consent, CAN have an abortion without their parent’s consent. So, that is what’s really driving us to make sure this section can be overturned, the interpretation of this section.”

Hopkins says if the amendment passes, it will open the door to creating legislation that could restore parental consent. But, Damien Filer with the “Vote No on 6" Campaign calls that misleading because of the 2004 constitutional amendment that passed.

“Truth of the matter is there’s already parental notification laws here in Florida," remarked Filer. "I mean, I’m a parent. I have a teenage daughter. It’s understandable that parents would want to know that kind of thing, but that’s not really an issue here. What is an issue is the question of whether people want this type of political interference in their medical decisions.”

One way the “Vote No on 6” campaign is spreading its message is through ads.  That includes one with Sandra Fluke. She’s the women’s rights activist who drew national attention when talk show host Rush Limbaugh had called her a “slut,” for her stance on birth control insurance coverage.

Staci Fox is with the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood affiliates, one of the lead opponents of the amendment. Fox says Amendment 6 is really about women who work for the state of Florida, who may not be covered by health insurance if they possibly have a pregnancy that goes tragically wrong.

“For example, if a woman were diagnosed with cancer during a pregnancy and needed to terminate her pregnancy in order to seek chemotherapy, her health insurance wouldn’t cover that," said Fox. "And, this is health insurance and health coverage that women, who work for the state of Florida today, can count on, and should be able to count on in the future.”

Amendment 6 will be on the November 6th ballot. It must get 60-percent of the vote to pass.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.