ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and a Florida Family Challenge Misleading Ballot Initiative, Saying Family Communication Cannot be Legislated

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
August 2, 2004 12:00 am

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TALAHASSEE, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Planned Parenthoods throughout the state, and a Florida family filed a legal challenge today to a ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to restrict teens’ access to abortion, saying the ballot proposal misleads voters and if passed will harm the most vulnerable teens.

“”Encouraging teens to talk to their parents is an important part of what we do every day, but not all teens come from a supportive and loving family,”” said Stephanie Grutman, Executive Director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “”Forcing teens from abusive homes or teens whose pregnancies are the result of incest to tell their parents about their abortion decision will make a bad situation even worse for some teens. “”

The ballot proposal would amend the constitution to authorize the state legislature to pass a law requiring parental notification before a teen can obtain an abortion. However, the proposal fails to inform voters that the amendment will take away privacy rights granted under the state constitution.

“”As the mother of two teenage daughters, my main concern is that they can safely access the health care they need,”” said Jeanne Baker, a plaintiff in this case along with her husband, Dr. Walter Bradley, and their two daughters. “”Of course I would want my daughters to come to me, but if they couldn’t I would still want them to receive the best health care possible and support from another adult. This amendment could prevent that. Politicians cannot legislate good family communication where it does not already exist.””

For more than 30 years, Planned Parenthood all over Florida has worked to provide, promote, and protect access to safe and comprehensive reproductive and sexuality health care counseling and services. “”An overwhelming majority of our services are education and prevention designed to reduce the need for abortion in the first place,”” Grutman said.

“”After reading the ballot proposal, there is absolutely no way voters will understand that its real purpose is to take away the privacy rights of Floridians,”” said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. “”To the contrary, the ballot proposal intentionally misleads the public into thinking that a yes vote come November will protect rather than take away existing rights. This is politics at its worst.””

The legislature introduced the ballot proposal after the Florida Supreme Court twice struck down laws requiring teens to involve their parents in their abortion decisions. Both times the court held that the laws violated the express right to privacy in the Florida Constitution.

Today’s challenge asks the court to block the ballot proposal from appearing on the November ballot.

The case is ACLU of Florida v. Hood and was filed in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit in and for Leon County, Florida. Lawyers for the Plaintiff include, Diana Kasdan and Louise Melling of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Marshall and Rebecca Steele of the ACLU of Florida, Inc., and Helene Krasnoff of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The legal papers are online at /node/35065

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