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Antiabortion-rights group launches ballot campaign to criminalize abortion care in Fla.

The antiabortion-rights group Abolish Abortion Florida has launched a ballot campaign to amend the state constitution to criminalize abortion care, Rewire reports.

Amendment details

Under the amendment, abortion would be classified as first-degree murder, which in Florida is punishable by death. The amendment does not include any exceptions for instances of rape or incest. According to Rewire, the amendment would apply not only to women seeking abortion care and providers who offer such care, but also to individuals who use certain forms of birth control.

The ballot initiative reads, "Any person who performs or procures an abortion shall be guilty of premeditated murder in the first degree, and any person who attempts to perform or procure an abortion shall be guilty of felony attempted murder." The amendment defines life as beginning at the "moment of fertilization" and defines abortion care as the "use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device, to intentionally [stop fetal development]."

According to Rewire, abortion-rights opponents who are pushing for the amendment claim that it will not "affect the legality of contraceptive birth control." However, they acknowledged that it would criminalize the use of emergency contraception, intrauterine devices, implants and oral contraception.

Ballot process

To put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, the state requires that supporters gather valid signatures from registered voters totaling at least 8 percent of the overall number of votes made in the latest presidential election. According to Rewire, the rule means that the number of signatures that ballot supporters will have to collect will depend on how many people vote in the presidential election on Nov. 8.

The Florida Department of State approved the petition on Sept. 16. Abortion-rights opponents must submit the necessary number of signatures before Feb. 1, 2018.

If the proposal reaches the ballot, it will require approval from at least 60 percent of voters in the state (Wilson, Rewire, 9/29).

Comments

Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the ballot initiative is "cruel and misguided," and called it the latest effort "to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion."

She said, "These types of extreme proposals are wildly unpopular with the public and have failed every single time they have been put before voters ... It's blatantly unconstitutional and shows the true colors of abortion opponents: to punish [those] who need reproductive health care" (Lawson, Broadly, 9/28).

Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire's vice president of law and the courts, said, "Let's be very clear what this initiative proposes. Its supporters want to put doctors and patients in jail for life -- or have them executed by the state -- for accessing hormonal birth control or abortion."

Mason Pieklo continued, "The idea that taking the birth control pill is the equivalent of first-degree premeditated murder would be laughably absurd if it were not so immediately dangerous to patients and providers." She added, "And it is patently false to claim this measure wouldn't outlaw contraception. It does (outlaw conception) with the minor exception of condoms by defining abortion so broadly as to include all forms of hormonal birth control" (Rewire, 9/29).