Opinion/Editorial Essay On Abortion

The wily anti-abortion campaign has a way with words. Or, better stated, a way with twisting words.

In the latest effort to restrict a woman’s right to privately decide whether to access abortion services, the “anti” crowd is pitching a proposed state constitutional amendment that purports to expand privacy rights, but in fact does the opposite.

The amendment doesn’t mention abortion outright. No, the effort is shrouded in the “right to privacy” embedded in the Florida Constitution. It’s one the courts have long relied on to protect an individual’s right to decide myriad personal and medical decisions without government intrusion.

Right now, the constitution says: Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person's private life.

The proposed amendment would change that to say: Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person's private life, with respect to privacy of information and the disclosure thereof.

The addition of those words changes everything.

Rather than broadly say the government can’t intrude in your private life, the constitution would say the government can’t intrude in your personal life with respect to privacy of information. That’s it.

Adding those words would actually reduce our right to privacy, not just for decisions about abortion, but for end-of-life, or cellphone monitoring, or drones or any other matter where the government would like to stick its nose in our business.

By way of argument, proponents say the amendment would protect the information you give the U.S. Census Bureau from being revealed, for example. So if you tell a census-taker that three children live in your house, when no one under age 50 is allowed, that information couldn’t be revealed.

There’s just one problem with that example. The Census can’t legally release that data now. For as a practical matter, can you imagine how little people would reveal if they knew the Census was going to share it with the world?

Rather than leaving the privacy provision alone, as he should, Commissioner John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer and longtime anti-abortion activist, with the blessing of a majority of his cohorts on the politically unbalanced commission, agreed to adopt the proposal from a member of the public as his own.

It happened last week as the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, an every-20-year look at possible changes in the state’s backbone document, wrapped up its public outreach phase. After months of encouraging public input, the group narrowed the public’s 2,000-plus suggestions to just six.

While the public suggested some outright abortion bans that named the deed, the more clever effort dressed up the privacy intrusion as a privacy expansion.

It came from Kenneth Bell, a former Florida Supreme Court Justice appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. As Bell well knows, the high court relies on a broad protection of privacy to deem anti-abortion legislation as untenable intrusions. Hence, many restrictive bills have hit a wall in the courts.

Commissioner Stemberger agreed to submit Bell’s proposal as his own.

It now moves to committee consideration and must pass muster with 22 of the commission’s 37 members by May 10 to make it on the 2018 ballot. Then, any amendment must be approved by 60 percent of the voters to be enshrined in the state constitution.

The troubling amendment comes before a woefully politically unbalanced commission. The majority of the commissioners were appointed by our Republican governor and Republican leaders of the Florida House and Senate, leaving little room for competing ideas to gain traction or much push for compromise.

“This is a dangerous game we’re in, resetting principles in Florida for the next generation,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “We’d be less nervous if there were more diversity among commissioners.”

Certainly, there is room for improvement in the state’s governing document. One good possible change would allow independent voters to participate more broadly in the primary process of selecting candidates.

But the potential for positive action is severely limited by the one-sided political backgrounds of a majority of the commissioners. It’s yet another example of how deeply partisan politics impedes progress.

Limiting privacy rights runs counter to most Republican leanings of less-intrusive government, but when it comes to abortion, this lack of consistency is rarely acknowledged and often misrepresented.

This amendment is more of the same. And if it makes it onto the ballot, it will require an expensive campaign to defeat.

The public should pressure the commission to only forward to voters needed improvements to the constitution. The commission hearings ahead will be critically important. To keep up on the action, follow the work at the commission’s website, flcrc.gov.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O'Hara, Elana Simms, Andy Reid, Deborah Ramirez and Editor-in-Chief Howard Saltz.

Jane Doe is a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant detained in Texas who is 15 weeks pregnant and is seeking an abortion. The Constitution grants her that right, but the Trump administration is determined to subvert it as part of its war on women’s reproductive rights.

Late Friday, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that the teenager must be allowed to have an abortion, but it gave the federal government until Oct. 31 to find her a sponsor so that the government itself does not have to arrange for the procedure. The ruling came hours after the court heard the case, in which the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement said that if it released her to see a doctor it would “facilitate” an abortion, an action it said would contradict its interest in “promoting child birth and fetal life.” The government argued that barring an abortion doesn’t place an “undue burden” on her rights because she can always go home to get one — to a Central American country that criminalizes abortion and to parents who are abusive.

This argument is as weak as it is ideologically brazen.

It doesn’t seem to matter to the government that adult women in detention by law have access to abortion, or that this teenager has followed Texas law and obtained a waiver from a state court allowing her to get an abortion without her parents’ consent. And while the Office of Refugee Resettlement refuses to let employees at the shelter where she is being held take her to get an abortion, it ordered them to bring her to a “crisis pregnancy center” with the goal of talking her out of the procedure.

Friday’s ruling lets the government continue to shirk the law until it finds a sponsor. The American Civil Liberties Union was weighing an appeal, potentially to the Supreme Court. Not only the federal government is obstructing Jane Doe’s path; Texas lawmakers have created a hostile environment for reproductive rights. The Supreme Court last year struck down one of the harshest of those laws, but Texas still requires women seeking abortions to first undergo mandatory counseling and an ultrasound, both of which the teenager has done. And the state still bans almost all abortions after 20 weeks, leaving her with about a month before she passes the point at which she will be forced to give birth.

That appears to be the government’s goal, and as time passes, E. Scott Lloyd, the anti-abortion crusader who heads the refugee office, comes closer to meeting it. In a court filing, the A.C.L.U. said Mr. Lloyd had in the past flown to an immigrant detention center to persuade another unaccompanied minor to carry her pregnancy to term. This time he wants the courts to enforce his will.

To all who wondered why religious conservatives struck a Faustian bargain with a morally compromised candidate, this case provides one answer. Anti-abortion advocates, from Vice President Mike Pence on down, find President Trump useful for converting their beliefs into policy.

At the health department, Teresa Manning, a former analyst with the conservative Family Research Council who opposes abortion and most forms of contraception, is deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, in charge of the Title X program. The program provides family planning funding for four million poor or uninsured Americans. Charmaine Yoest, former president for Americans United for Life, is the department’s assistant secretary of public affairs. Matthew Bowman, who worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian anti-abortion legal advocacy group, is now a lawyer at the department, and a reported architect of new Obamacare rules making it easier for some companies to claim religious or moral exemptions to requirements that they cover the cost of birth control. Katy Talento, an abortion foe who wrote an article beginning, “Is chemical birth control causing miscarriages of already-conceived children? What about breaking your uterus for good?” is now a health policy adviser on the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Continue reading the main story

0 Replies to “Opinion/Editorial Essay On Abortion”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *