A Response to Florida Family Policy Council Regarding Citizen Initiatives


John Stemberger of Florida Family Policy Council recently published a newsletter article entitled:

"Our Position on Pro-Life Petition Campaigns to Amend the Florida Constitution". We have copied the newsletter in its entirety here, along with Abolish Abortion Florida's response.

"There are currently three pro-life citizen initiative petition drives registered in Florida to attempt to amend the state constitution. Unfortunately, they all have different leaders sponsoring them and each has different proposed language.” 

Mr. Stemberger is mistaken.  To our knowledge, there have never been three active abortion-related initiatives at one time. Currently, there is only one active “pro-life” citizen initiative: the Human Life Protection Amendment. Abolish Abortion Florida officially closed our petition drive in 2018, over four years ago, as reflected by the state's database. Personhood Florida officially closed theirs on October 20, but made it known beforehand that they would defer to the Human Life Protection Amendment. Both Personhood Florida and Abolish Abortion Florida have put our support fully behind the Human Life Protection Amendment.

“The problem we are all trying to solve as pro-lifers in Florida is that we have our own state version of Roe vs. Wade. This bad case, decided by the Florida Supreme Court in 1989 called 'In Re TW' created a state right to abortion using a good informational privacy clause in our state constitution (adopted by Floridians in 1980). Our current strategy, agreed upon by leading state and national pro-life leaders and pro-life lawyers, is to get rid of this bad case the same way we got rid of Roe vs. Wade. Bad judges created the abortion right in Florida, and now good judges in Florida will reverse and overturn it.”

We at AAFL have long acknowledged that Florida has its own “mini-Roe.” We agree that TW is a bad case, and that it should be overturned. We agree that Florida's Privacy Act has nothing to do with killing babies. However, we disagree vehemently with Mr. Stemberger's “current strategy, agreed upon by the leading state and national pro-life leaders and pro-life lawyers.” The current pro-life strategy is to wait for the courts and do nothing while babies die. AAFL’s leading state, national, and abolitionist leaders and lawyers maintain that no state has the authority to “create an abortion right,” as the right to life is God-given. Therefore, AAFL maintains that TW is null and void, and should be completely ignored now, just like Roe v. Wade should have been ignored back in 1973. The language of the proposed Human Life Protection Amendment would do just that.

"A 2022 law protecting unborn children from abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Governor DeSantis is currently on appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. Florida’s Supreme Court is now widely considered one of the country’s most conservative and textualist state courts, and most of the justices are personally pro-life. It will take several months, perhaps even more than a year, but we believe the Florida high court will eventually hear and review the 15-week law. Even liberal commentators expect the court to eventually overturn Florida’s abortion 'right'. So, at this point, our thirty-three years of work have paid off with winning elections and getting great judicial appointments and we are set to see a similar reversal of Florida’s Roe vs. Wade."

Mr. Stemberger is referencing the so-called 15-week abortion ban. If you think of TW as Florida's "mini-Roe," think of the 15-week ban as Florida's "mini-Dobbs." Florida's pro-life legislature modeled the language of the 15-week bill virtually identically to the Dobbs case that led to the overturn of Roe. They did this specifically to challenge Florida's mini-Roe in exactly the same way that the Dobbs case challenged the US Supreme Court's Roe. Indeed, it seems likely that our mini-Roe will eventually be overturned. In the meantime, however, one child is executed by abortion in Florida approximately every 6.6 minutes.

Further, what Mr. Stemberger and the Florida pro-life community refuse to admit is that this pro-life 15-week "ban" actually fails to protect over 96% of the babies vulnerable to abortion. The sponsors, Kelli Stargel and Erin Grall, freely admitted the 15-week ban was not intended to impede abortion in any way. And yet Mr. Stemberger, Governor DeSantis, the Florida legislature, and the Florida pro-life movement have repeatedly and profusely praised the 15-week ban, celebrating it as "one of the strongest pro-life protections in Florida's history." We shudder to think how this can possibly be considered a victory. While we praise God for every life saved, we cannot congratulate the pro-life movement on its "thirty-three years of work," which might result -- at best -- in a mere 75,000 children being led to the slaughter per year as opposed to 80,000. Our question to Mr. Stemberger is this: If our mini-Roe is overturned and our 15-week ban is upheld, what then? Are we going to continue with a law that spares barely three percent of Florida's 80,000 preborns from child sacrifice?

"It is critical to understand that the text of our constitution is not the problem. The problem lies with the liberal activist judges on the court in 1989 that clearly misinterpreted it. Therefore, we do not need to amend our state Constitution to 'fix' our constitution because there is no abortion right in it.

"That is one of the main reasons we do not support petition-based attempts to amend our state constitution on life issues.  

Abolish Abortion Florida can agree with Mr. Stemberger in principal that we should not have to amend our state Constitution to "fix" it. We agree that there is no abortion right in it. We would go even further than that, in fact, and maintain that the right to life of every human being, both born and unborn, is commanded by God and protected by our state and our US Constitution. However, it has long been the case that we must spell out that which should go without saying.

A case in point is the marriage amendment that Mr. Stemberger describes below. Nothing in our constitution protected homosexual marriage. A simple state statute could have resolved the issue. But Mr. Stemberger and his team wanted a Constitutional amendment, and they got one passed. We have several seemingly irrelevant Constitutional amendments. Some were citizen initiatives, and some weren't. We even have a citizen-led Constitutional amendment protecting pregnant pigs. (Article X, Section 21). That's right, we care more about the treatment of pigs than we do the treatment of preborn people. Why should a pig's welfare be specifically protected in our Constitution, but the welfare of preborn human beings not be?

"There are at least five other reasons we do not support these efforts: 1) We should learn from Kansas’ failure. The state of Kansas just tried to pass a pro-life amendment in August of this year and the effort failed miserably. The pro-life side spent over $10 million on the initiative. When an amendment like this fails, it gives perfect cover for weak politicians to hide behind the results and say, “The people have spoken and we should not try to pass any more pro-life laws.” Kansas pro-lifers will spend decades now trying to dig themselves out of the hole they created by trying and failing to pass a pro-life state constitutional amendment. Leading state and national pro-life organizations are hoping that Florida and other states do not make the same mistake as Kansas." 

AAFL agrees we should not make the same mistake as Kansas. Kansas did not try to abolish child murder in obedience to the Lord. Kansas made vague references to abortion rights and failed to succinctly spell out the God-given right to life of every human being. The Value-them-Both amendment was a weak-sauce effort to allow the regulation of child murder. The Florida Human Life Protection Amendment does not make this mistake.

Let's take a look at the Kansas' so-called "Value them Both" language: "Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.

Compare that to the Human Life Protection Amendment:

"Article I, New Section. Preborn Human Life. 

(a) RIGHT. The right to life of the preborn individual is God-given, thus unalienable and recognized accordingly. Therefore, it shall not be infringed at any stage of development. 

(b) DEFINITION. The term “preborn individual” in this section means a preborn human person at any stage of development. 

(c) APPLICABILITY. The unintentional death of a preborn individual shall not be construed to violate this section when resulting from, 

(1) the undertaking of life-saving procedures to save the life of the mother when accompanied by reasonable steps to save the life of the preborn individual, 

(2) a spontaneous miscarriage, or spontaneous fetal demise. 

(d) EFFECTIVE DATE. This amendment shall become effective immediately upon approval by the voters. 

(e) IMPLEMENTATION. Upon the effective date of this section, all laws, judicial precedents, and acts contrary to this section shall be null, void, and deemed repealed to the extent of any conflict with this section."

Can you see the difference? Ours is far more precise and definitive language. "Valuing them both" did nothing to actually save the ones being led to slaughter.

Further, the "weak politicians" Mr. Stemberger warns about are the very ones who just passed the 15-week ban which fails to save 96% of Florida's preborn. Floridians who truly love the Lord and love their neighbors need