A state lawmaker who endorsed Florida’s controversial fetal “personhood” amendment is expressing hesitancy about whether the legislature should take on the issue and override the process of gathering signatures to place the amendment on statewide ballots.
Pro-lifers, in general, agree with the sentiment of the amendment, which seeks to define “all human beings as persons under the constitution regardless of age, race, health function, condition of physical and/or mental dependency and/or disability,” but some believe it is not the best tactical approach to ending abortion. Those on the opposing side see the initiative, meanwhile, see it as a damning blow to the pro-choice movement.
Though the initiative currently has no signatures, speculation has arisen about whether the legislature would add it to the ballot directly.
In an interview with The Florida Independent, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, noted that the legislature would be more likely to stay on the fringes of the anti-abortion movement, by reexamining the ultrasound bill, than to take the side of such a stringent initiative.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has supported the fetal personhood movement in the past. The group sponsoring the initiative, Personhood Florida, even lists a shining endorsement from Baxley on its website.
But Baxley has his own reservations about the legislature taking on the initiative. “I’m a pro-lifer and I do support conceptually the view that [the unborn] are persons,” Baxley says, “but there is some division in the pro-life community as to whether or not this is the route to take. I endorsed [Personhood Florida] because I concur with the construct of their viewpoint. I think they are keeping the pro-life issue out there, rather than just losing it in the background.”
Though firm in his endorsement for Personhood Florida’s pro-life agenda, Baxley is quick to say that the legislature isn’t necessarily the proper arena for a potential personhood amendment. “I’m not sure, legislatively, that there’s an answer,” Baxley says, adding that as a citizen’s initiative, the amendment could work.
“Some folks feel like incremental change is a more productive path right now,” Baxley says. “I think the personhood movement serves an important dynamic to keep the issue out there, but we need to take a look at other states that pass similar initiatives, see who wants to be the test case. … I think it’s maybe even inappropriate for the legislature to step in. It needs to remain a private initiative.”