Florida voters on Tuesday will decide on a ballot measure that would remove women's right to reproductive "privacy" from the state's constitution, weakening the court's ability to block abortion restrictions and paving the way for a full ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Amendment 6, which was put on the ballot by Florida's GOP-controlled state legislature, also aligns the state constitution with existing federal law that prevents public funds from paying for abortion care. This aspect of the amendment would change nothing in Florida, as the Hyde Amendment has prevented public funds from being used toward abortions for more than three decades.
Proponents of Amendment 6, led by a group called Protect Florida Taxpayers and Parental Rights, have tried to frame the measure around the parental consent issue and the taxpayer funding of abortion, which have been hot-button topics in the state. In stripping women's privacy protections from the state constitution, they argue, the measure would make it easier for legislators to pass and enforce laws that require minors seeking abortion to have parental consent. Abortions in Florida currently require parental notification, but not consent.
Opponents of the measure point out that it could also enable the state to pass other abortion restrictions, such as mandatory ultrasound laws, gestational bans on abortion, and mandatory waiting periods before abortions, without interference from the courts.
"This is an example of a deceptively labeled amendment -- one of many this year," said Dierdre Macnab, president of Florida's League of Women Voters, which is campaigning against the measure. "It's trying to frighten people that there is public funding of abortion, which there is not in Florida, and disguising the fact that this is about taking away the right to privacy and possibly putting women's lives in danger."
The "privacy" clause in the Florida constitution is based on the same constitutional principle that the Supreme Court used in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade to prevent states from banning birth control and abortion. Some social conservatives, most notably Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), have argued that the Supreme Court was wrong in its assertion that the Constitution protects women's rights to reproductive privacy. The Florida proposal paves the way for state lawmakers to pass a full ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
A Suffolk University poll from early October showed 44 percent of voters supported the amendment, 40 percent opposed it and 15 percent were undecided.
The amendment requires a 60 percent "yes" vote to pass. Baylor Johnson, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said Florida voters are likely to reject Amendment 6 "when they realize that the [state] legislature is trying to pull the wool over their eyes."
"It says that if you're a pregnant woman, you have less privacy rights in Florida than anyone else in the state," he told The Huffington Post in an interview. "Its impact would ripple throughout women's rights and reproductive freedom in Florida."