Florida Supreme Court Replaces Misleading Ballot Proposal to Limit Teens' Privacy Rights With Full Text of Proposed Amendment

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

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ACLU and Planned Parenthood Launch Grassroots Campaign to Block Harmful Amendment, Saying Good Family Communication Cannot be Legislated

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Responding to a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, two Planned Parenthood affiliates, and a Florida family arguing that a ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to restrict teens’ access to abortion was misleading, the Florida Supreme Court today ordered the state to replace the ballot summary with the full text of the proposed amendment. In response, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood vowed to work together to defeat the measure at the polls and to protect the health and lives of teens throughout the state.

“”By issuing this order, the court apparently agreed that the legislature’s ballot summary was misleading,”” said Diana Kasdan, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project who argued the case before the lower court last month. “”We brought this challenge to ensure that Florida voters could make an informed decision, and we will continue to work to educate the public about the dangers of restricting teens’ access to abortion and legislating family communication.””

If adopted by voters, the proposed constitutional amendment will authorize the state legislature to pass a law requiring parental notification before a teen can obtain an abortion. Challengers argued that the original language failed to inform voters that the amendment would take away privacy rights granted under the state constitution.

“”Planned Parenthood affiliates brought this lawsuit to protect the health and lives of Florida teens,”” said Stephanie Grutman, Executive Director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “”Though the court-ordered changes to the ballot language help clarify the legal intent of the proposal, the amendment itself still would put politics before the reality of teens’ lives. For many teens, especially those that come from abusive homes, forcing them to tell their parents about their abortion decision can make a bad situation worse.””

For more than 88 years, Planned Parenthood has worked to provide, promote, and protect access to safe and comprehensive reproductive and sexuality health care counseling and services.

“”As a mother, I have always wanted to ensure that my two teenage daughters 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. “”In November, we must defeat this amendment and send a clear message that politicians should not interfere in private, family matters.””

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.

“”We will be taking action to ensure that the public understand the dangers of legislating family communication,”” said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. “”Not all teens come from the perfect American family; a one-size-fits-all amendment will jeopardize the most vulnerable teens.””

The Florida Supreme Court agreed to expedite its review of the ballot proposal after the challengers appealed the lower court’s decision denying their request to remove the proposal from the ballot.

The case is ACLU of Florida v. Hood, Case No. SC04-1671. Lawyers for the Plaintiff include, Kasdan and Louise Melling of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Randall Marshall and Rebecca Steele of the ACLU of Florida, Inc., and Helene Krasnoff of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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