The abortion wars continue: Amendment Six

It's not just a threat to abortion rights, say opponents, but to privacy.

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Leading the charge on the citizen initiative is Randy Armstrong and the “Say Yes on 6” campaign. Armstrong doesn’t think minors need a right to privacy when it comes to abortion.

“Since only notification is required, meaning the parent had no choice in their child’s decision, parents still hold the responsibility to pay for health care needs should their minor child experience side effects or require hospitalization as a result of an abortion,” Armstrong says.

He adds that a change to current parental consent law is part of the amendment’s goal.

“When passed, this amendment will open a way for elected officials to pass future legislation requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion,” Armstrong says.

But Erin Jensen, field coordinator for the ACLU of Tampa’s Vote No Committee, says the language of the amendment doesn’t state the true purpose clearly.

“Language on amendments is confusing, and is intentionally written in a confusing manner,” she says. “The public needs to be aware of the amendment and what it will actually do.”

Tampa Bay Times columnist Robyn Blumner called the state’s current privacy rights “an insurance policy” and wrote that “even if Roe were overturned, Florida’s constitutional right to privacy would protect women from untoward government intrusion.”

Armstrong argues that the “right to privacy” clause itself is what needs protection.

The amendment, he claims, “would protect the ‘right of privacy’ clause in our Florida constitution from being stretched beyond its original intent to justify even broader rights to abortion than those in the U.S. Constitution.”

If the amendment passes, Blumner argues that the state constitution will have one set of privacy rights for men and another lesser form for women. But Senate sponsor Anitere Flores believes it would better align the state with the federal constitution.

“We must ensure that our state courts apply the rule of law consistent with the United States Constitution,” Senator Anitere Flores said.

Two local groups, “Nix Six” and “I am Choice,” are preparing for November’s battle. They represent two distinctly different arenas in the realm of women’s rights.

Nix Six is being spearheaded by the National Organization for Women (NOW). B J Star, a Dunedin attorney and president of West Pinellas NOW, started the Nix Six campaign last summer. She joined NOW in 1975 when she was a police officer.

“I was facing differential treatment from superior officers and the union wasn’t sympathetic back then,” Star remembers. “So I went to law school so I would never have to have someone else explain the law to me. I will explain it to them now.”

Ayele Hunt started the “I am Choice” campaign in late April. Eleven years after she started fighting for women’s rights, she’s ready to take on the Sunshine State’s Amendment 6 proponents.

“I am Choice” is aimed at educating and involving younger women in the fight to maintain rights gained before their time. “Literally, the rights the women’s movement gained in the ’80s are being taken away,” Hunt says. “Once they have been taken by a Constitutional amendment, as Amendment Six, the only way to regain the rights is to get a future legislature who supports women’s rights to introduce new legislation.”

Star speaks highly of Hunt’s efforts and recognizes that young women were born into a world where many rights were already in place.

A campaign headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg opens on June 1. “Nix Six” and “I am Choice” will work together on many fronts to educate the public before November.

According to Hunt, the legislation defines the use of public funds to include public employees’ private health insurance coverage.

“Meaning if you are a public employee, nurse in a public hospital or a police officer, Amendment 6 removes coverage for reproductive health care beyond end of pregnancy procedures,” Hunt said.

Erin Jensen, field coordinator at the ACLU of Tampa’s Vote No committee, agrees.

“The language of the amendment specifically targets anyone working in the public sector regarding health benefits,” Jensen said.

Proponents of the legislation often raise an alarm about footing the bill for someone else’s abortion.

“This is not a call to deny access to abortion for anyone, but simply to say that a private act shouldn’t be a public expense — that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for abortion in Florida,” Armstrong says.

Asked whether women’s privacy rights would be affected, Armstrong answers, “A woman’s right to privacy will not be affected.”

Star isn’t buying that response.

“The very idea that Amendment 6 won’t limit a woman’s right to privacy is ludicrous at best — and cruel,” she responds. “The Republicans are attempting to undo a fundamental right granted by Florida voters in 1980 to the detriment of all the citizens in our great state.”

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