The idea behind the Personhood movement is simple: Every human being should be protected under the law, no matter how young or how old. That is, each of us should be recognized as a “person” in the law. The need for a Personhood Amendment in Florida arises not only because of the refusal of federal courts to recognize the personhood of a child in the womb, as occurred in Roe v. Wade, but also because the Florida Supreme Court has divined a “right” to abortion under the Florida Constitution’s right to privacy clause, Art. I, Sec. 23. See In re T.W., 551 So.2d 1186 (Fla. 1989). Passage of the proposed amendment would establish that there is no right to abortion under the Florida Constitution, and would affirmatively establish a right to life for every living human being.
The language of the proposed amendment is straightforward: “The God-given right to life of every human being at any stage of development shall be recognized and protected. This provision shall be deemed to supersede any other inconsistent provisions.” It first states that the right to life is “God-given.” This phrase echoes the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s charter, which states that the right to life is “endowed by our Creator.” It thus affirms that the right does not come from the government, and so cannot be taken away by the government.
The proposed amendment then explains that the right to life applies to “every human being,” in order to make it clear that neither age, nor size nor physical infirmity will lessen that unalienable right; it applies to every human, of every size and shape and condition. The reason why the amendment uses the phrase “human being” instead of “person” is because Florida law defines murder and other crimes against the person in terms of “human beings” instead of persons. For example, murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being.” Fla. Stat. Ann. Sec. 782.09(1)(a) (emphasis added).
The proposed amendment further states that the right to life applies “at any stage of development.” That is, from the very earliest stages of life, when the tiny human does not really look like us, to the very last stages of life, when we might not be able to do many of the things we used to do, the right to life protects us. In short, the intent of the amendment is to protect every living human being, regardless of age or infirmity.
The amendment next states that this fundamental right to life “shall be recognized and protected.” In law, before we can protect someone we must first recognize that she is a person entitled to be protected. The proposed amendment therefore recognizes every human being and then explicitly states that all “shall” be protected as a matter of constitutional law.
The second sentence of the proposed amendment is more of a guide to those who will have to interpret the law in the context of other laws and amendments. In stating that this amendment shall be deemed to “supersede any other inconsistent provisions,” it makes clear that to the extent it might conflict with any other provision, this amendment will control.
Stephen M. Crampton
Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel