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Abortion at issue in latest constitutional review hearing

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Anti-abortion activists took to the microphone early and often at Friday’s Constitution Revision Commission hearing in Boca Raton.

The 37-member panel, which convenes every 20 years to review and rewrite the state’s governing document, is now on a listening tour, holding public hearings around the state.

A series of speakers Friday urged the commission to amend the constitution to undo a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional a state law that required parental consent before a minor can get an abortion.

Several speakers complained that the constitutional provision at issue, the right to privacy, was misconstrued to apply to abortion rights instead of a right to “informational privacy” against the government.

The state constitution now says “every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein.”

The majority opinion, In re T.W., was written by the late Supreme Court Justice, and later Chief Justice, Leander J. Shaw Jr., who was mentioned by name by at least one of the speakers. Shaw was targeted by anti-abortion groups during his 1990 judicial retention vote.

“The ruling invalidated a state law that prohibited single minors from obtaining abortions without permission of their parents, a legal guardian or a judge,” the New York Times explained. “But the ruling went much further, saying the right-to-privacy amendment to the state Constitution meant that government may not interfere in abortion decisions.

“The justices split 4 to 3 on the parental permission ruling, and voted 6 to 1 in ruling that the privacy amendment applied to the abortion issue,” it said.

Shaw went on to win retention on the court by nearly 60 percent of the vote. He retired in 2003 and died in 2015 at the age of 85. His son, Sean Shaw, now is a Democratic state representative from Tampa.

The commission’s next hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]

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