A proposed fetal “personhood” amendment to the Florida constitution has alarmed pro-choice activists. Backed by Personhood Florida, the amendment would define all human beings as persons “regardless of age, race, health function, condition of physical and/or mental dependency and/or disability.” Thus far, the initiative has zero signatures, but it could find its way onto the ballot with help from the state legislature.
Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says her organization is taking the initiative “seriously,” pointing out that the amendment could lead to bans on birth control.
“The personhood amendment is bad public policy, spearheaded by radical anti-choice extremists who believe that even birth control should be banned,” she says. “If passed, the result would not only ban abortion but would go so far as to ban most common forms of birth control. … This has the potential to affect millions of Florida’s women when 98 percent of women will use birth control at some point in their lives.”
Though Kunkel says that Planned Parenthood aims to take the initiative seriously, she says the group recognizes that similar initiatives have failed elsewhere: “Personhood has been soundly rejected by voters in Colorado twice, once in 2008 and again in 2010. And personhood has failed to make it to the ballot in eight additional states, including Florida, in 2010, whether by legal challenge or failure to collect enough ballot signatures.”
Without enough signatures, the personhood initiative would have to rely on legislative help, likely from one of Florida’s most pro-life advocates.
Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, though a fierce pro-life activist, has said that he believes the legislature will focus on more pressing issues, like jobs and the economy, before placing such a stringent initiative on the ballot. Another pro-life representative, Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has yet to make a statement regarding his support or opposition to the personhood initiative but has endorsed the group in the past.
“If representatives like Dennis Baxley and Scott Plakon were serious about reducing the number of abortions performed in Florida, they would oppose measures that ultimately ban abortion and do nothing to prevent unintended pregnancy, like the personhood amendment,” says Kunkel. “The only serious way to reduce the need for abortion is by expanding access to birth control and reducing the number of unintended pregnancies in Florida. This is a commonsense approach to reducing the need for abortion, something Planned Parenthood has been advocating for more than 90 years.”