Earlier this week, a Christian group in Florida launched a petition to add an amendment to the state constitution that would reclassify abortion as first-degree murder, punishing not only the doctors who perform the procedure but also the women who choose to terminate pregnancies. The political committee Abolish Abortion Florida (AAF) aims to gather enough signatures to get the measure considered for inclusion on the 2018 election ballot.
In summary, the ballot text would read, "Abortion deprives an innocent human being of the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 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. This provision shall prevail over any other conflicting provisions." In Florida, first degree murder is punishable by death.
According to its website, AAF is made up of evangelicals "seeking to respond rightly to child sacrifice." They reject the idea that abortion is health care "in any way, shape or form." When asked why, AAF chairperson Bonnie Coffey tells Broadly that "abortion is a murder of a human being who is made in the image of God, and murder is not health care."
Many anti-abortion advocates believe abortion providers should be punished, but AAF takes it one step further. Their proposed statute would also hold the women seeking abortions culpable. "We feel that laws against murder should be enforced equally against anyone who commits murder," Coffey says, "and anyone who procures an abortion is procuring a murder. There are no exceptions."
Not even rape victims seeking seeking to abort a pregnancy would get a pass, Coffey says. "A human being is a human being, regardless of whether or not his or her father is a rapist," she explains. "We decry rape as a horrible crime and feel that rapists should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But we do not believe that murdering an unborn child conceived in rape is a solution to the rape itself."
So far, Coffey says, a few hundred people have signed a resolution on their website calling on Florida lawmakers to stop regulating abortion and work to abolish it completely. (According to a Florida chapter of the League of Women Voters, the state constitution allows for citizens to initiate revisions or amendments if they can gather petition signatures totaling at least 8 percent of the number of statewide votes in the last presidential election, originating from at least 13 of Florida's 25 congressional districts—so they have long way to go.)
Amanda Allen, the senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, calls the petition "cruel and misguided," and just the latest attempt "to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion."
"These types of extreme proposals are wildly unpopular with the public and have failed every single time they have been put before voters," she tells Broadly. "It's blatantly unconstitutional and shows the true colors of abortion opponents: to punish some who need reproductive health care."