How far will they go?

A new petition drive aims at making it illegal to take birth control. How far will these far-righters go to take away individual rights for the sake of their political agenda? This is a dangerous encroachment on an individuals right to make their own decisions about their health. 
Please note in the story below, one supporter calls this amendment "a continuation of the civil rights movement."
The proposed amendment must be stopped long before it makes it to the ballot. 


Tampa Tribune -- September 11, 2009

By Catherine Dolinski

Anti-abortion conservatives are proposing a new Constitutional amendment 

that critics claim would make it a crime to take birth control pills in 


The "Personhood Amendment" that conservative activists are filing in 

Tallahassee on Friday would add language to the state Constitution that 

defines someone as a "person," regardless of age or health status, "from 

the beginning of the biological development of that human being."

Pat McEwen of Palm Bay is one of two leaders of the loose collection of 

activists, collectively known as Personhood Florida.

"In the original Florida Constitution in 1885, they gave Floridians the 

right to enjoy and defend life," she said. "This amendment defends the 

unborn, and it also gives older people like me -- a retired college 

professor -- the right to make my own decisions, and not have someone 

override it."

Personhood Florida will have to collect 676,811 petition signatures by 

Feb. 1 for its proposal to make the 2010 ballot, though organizers say 

they'll keep trying if they don't make that deadline.

On the group's side is the American Life League, a socially conservative 

Virginia-based organization that is backing similar amendments in about 

two dozen states. The national group spent $250,000 on a campaign that 

put a similar question on Colorado's ballot in 2008. Voters rejected 

that measure by a margin of roughly 3-to-1.

Though the wording of that proposal differed from the one now pending in 

Florida, their meanings are similar. The 2008 proposal in Colorado 

defined human beings at "the moment of fertilization." The Florida 

amendment refers to "the beginning of the biological development," which 

McEwen defined in a Thursday interview to mean a fertilized egg.

That, opponents say, would make it a crime not just to kill a fetus by 

abortion, but to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's 

uterus as birth control pills can.

"By their definition, anything that you might do to interfere with the 

implantation of a fertilized egg would be tantamount to murder," said 

Marc Farinella, a campaign consultant of state Chief Financial Officer 

Alex Sink, presumptive Democratic candidate for governor.

As described by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 

both birth control pills and intrauterine devices, or IUDS, work partly 

by causing the lining of the uterus to thin, "making it less likely that 

a fertilized egg can attach to it."

McEwen, of Personhood Florida, said the primary purpose of a birth 

control pill is to prevent fertilization. Preventing the egg from 

implanting, she said, is "secondary" -– and she's not convinced it 

even happens, arguing that not all research supports that finding.

Given that, she said, she's not convinced her proposed amendment would 

criminalize the pill. But she would support banning it, she said, if she 

were truly convinced that it prevents implantation.

Personhood Florida's national backer, the American Life League, has no 

such doubts. On its Web site, the league slams the pill for numerous 

reasons, including this one: "the pill will irritate the lining of the 

uterus so that the newly formed human being cannot attach to his/her 

mother's womb and dies. This is called a chemical abortion."

The group also operates the Web site, which focuses 

primarily on blood clots and other health risks birth control pills pose 

to women.

Farinella, former chief of staff and campaign manager for the late 

Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan of Missouri, said he got to know the 

American Life League during Carnahan's bid for the U.S. Senate in 2000. 

Carnahan faced conservative U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in the 

2000 race, prior to his fatal airplane crash in October of that year.

"That race, from the time it started, was about these hot-button social 

issues," Farinella said, and the American Life League was aligned firmly 

with Ashcroft. He described the group as the "ringleader" of a national 

movement to outlaw birth control.

Katie Walker, spokeswoman for the American Life League, said Farinella 

is jumping to conclusions about the of the proposed amendment's impact.

"I have no idea what would happen if this were to pass" she said. 

Contraception "is "not the scope of this amendment. This amendment is 

about civil rights -- it's really a continuation of the civil Rights 

movement. "

But Monica McCafferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky 

Mountains, said the potential for criminalizing birth control became 

part of the statewide debate over the Colorado amendment in 2008. 

"Voters stated loudly that they didn't want this measure that had such 

far-reaching implications."

With less than six months to collect hundreds of thousands of 

signatures, Personhood Florida faces a tight deadline for making the 

next ballot. Leaders of the Christian Coalition of Florida and Florida 

Family Policy Council did not return phone calls Thursday seeking 

comment about the amendment and whether they will campaign for it.

Such a ballot question could affect which voters turn out -- though it's 

hard to say whether opponents or supporters would be more motivated, 

said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University 

of South Florida in St. Petersburg. "They're really playing with fire," 

he said. "It could just as easily turn out an equal or greater number of 

voters on the political left who staunchly oppose this."

It could also pose headaches for 2010 political candidates with nuanced 

abortion stances. Thursday, even candidates who call themselves 

"pro-life" stopped short of fully embracing the personhood proposal.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, presumptive GOP candidate for governor, 

said through spokeswoman Shannon Gravitte that he is firmly "pro-life" 

but would not comment "on hypothetical issues." If the proposal wins 

enough petition signatures, she said, "voters will certainly know where 

General McCollum stands."

In the U.S. Senate GOP primary, Gov. Charlie Crist said "no and no" when 

asked if he knew of the proposal or would comment on it.

Crist's rival in the primary, Marco Rubio, said through spokesman Alex 

Burgos that he believes strongly that life begins at conception and that 

he opposes the decision in Roe v. Wade. But he stopped short of 

endorsing the personhood amendment. Rubio, Burgos said, "will be 

soliciting the views of different parties involved, to ensure he makes a 

well-informed decision."


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