Ideologically Driven Legislative Session Chock Full of Attacks on Floridians' Civil Liberties

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 30, 2010 12:00 am

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the 2010 Florida Legislative Session ends today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida takes a look at some of the most dangerous anti-civil liberties bills that were adopted.

“From the ‘unfair districts’ proposal to anti-choice and anti-women’s rights amendments, legislators took power away from Floridians and expanded the power of government to control people’s lives,” said Courtenay Strickland, ACLU of Florida Public Policy Director.

“Every proponent of this bill might as well have declared in floor debate: ‘I am not a doctor, I just play one in the Florida Legislature.’ “The manner in which legislators are encroaching into the private medical decisions of Floridians reminds us that big government is very much alive, despite all the political rhetoric about the need for smaller government,” continued Strickland. “It is as if our legislature, once again dictating medical practice, learned nothing from the disgraceful Schiavo episode.”

HB 1143 Anti-choice Bill

This bill is political interference in a woman’s most personal, private medical decisions. Women, in partnership with their physicians, should decide what medical procedures are necessary. Every woman should have the information she needs to protect her health and make the best decision for her circumstances. Doctors, not Florida legislators, are the best people to make these decisions.

The information a woman receives from her doctor should allow her to protect her health and to make the best decision for her circumstances – it should not be written to coerce or shame or pressure the woman into making a decision that is not right for her.

Although Americans do not all feel the same way about abortion, what’s most important is that women’s health and well-being are protected, and that medical decisions are not politicized.

This legislation will result in hundreds of thousands of women losing employer-based health insurance coverage of abortions. The bill goes far beyond the federal plan by prohibiting health insurance companies that are part of the health exchange from offering policies that cover abortions. Businesses that receive tax credits will be restricted from providing their employees with health insurance that covers abortion even if they don’t utilize federal or state subsidies to purchase their plan. In theory, a separate rider could be purchased with private monies, but to-date, those riders are not available in any of the five states with similar laws – and there is no reason to think that they will be available in Florida.

The practical effect of this legislation is to eliminate virtually all coverage by private health plans for abortion. Our legislature has now dictated what kind of insurance a private company can choose to provide to its employees.

“Unfair Districts”

Lawmakers also trampled on the rights of voters, undermining a ballot proposal that was signed by nearly 1.7 million Floridians to create a fair redistricting process. The proposal created by the legislature attempts to deceive voters into thinking it will clarify the Fair Districts proposals placed on the ballot by the voters, when in fact it will undermine those efforts and weaken protections for minority districts.

Floridians have spoken, editorial boards have spoken, interest groups from all persuasions have spoken – but our lawmakers are not listening.

“The most gerrymandered legislature in the U.S. voted to weaken a citizen-backed proposal to end gerrymandering. Disappointing, yes, but it should not come as a surprise,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “To top it off, they did do so dishonestly – claiming that it was just a clarification of the citizen-backed redistricting initiative.”

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