Florida's 2012 ballot is long and painful. Lines at some early voting stations are hours long. But we can't stress enough how important this election is.
For the women and girls of our community and our state, there is more at stake than the White House, more at stake than the Congress, and more at stake than the Supreme Court justices who could be appointed by the next president.
There are 11 constitutional amendments on the ballot. To us, this seems like a blatant attempt to bypass the legislative process. There is a real chance that the Florida Constitution -- the fundamental principles that frame our state's lawmaking -- will be amended to infringe on our rights.
Our recommendation and the recommendation of many respected organizations, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, is to vote NO on all the amendments. Three examples specifically target the rights of women and girls.
- Now that we finally have the right to preventive health care, they want to take it away. Ballot Amendment 1 would allow Florida to opt out of new federal health care requirements. Free access to eight preventive health benefits for women would vanish. These include contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies and screenings of gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence, as well as routine check-ups for breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests and prenatal care.
- 40 years after Roe v. Wade, our right to reproductive freedom is under attack. Again. The League of Women Voters framed it well: "...[P]ublic policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices." Proposed Amendment 6 enshrines the prohibition against public funding of abortions in the State Constitution. A second component is the privacy provision, which would prevent courts from concluding in abortion cases that the right to privacy in Florida is broader in scope than the right to privacy afforded in the U.S. Constitution.
- The right to the best possible free public education system is at risk. Amendment 8 attempts to repeal a 126-year-old provision in the State Constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. The provision would allow the state to use taxpayer money to fund religious institutions, including schools. If this amendment passes, public funds could be diverted to benefit specific groups, through vouchers or other methods. Access to quality, free, public education is one of the most powerful resources to lift girls out of poverty, protect them from violence, and create our future leaders.
Even if you're tired of the rhetoric, disappointed in your candidate, or just daunted by the length of the line or the ballot, please get to the polls to protect the rights of Florida's women and girls.