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Planned personhood

The pro-life movement’s newest attack on reproductive rights raises its profile in Florida

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Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, monitors the attacks from all fronts as the political arm for the organization in Tallahassee. She’s grown accustomed to the conservative legislature’s standard tactic of planting anti-choice caveats in any corner of legislation it can. Already this year a bill has been filed by state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, to exclude abortion coverage from the forthcoming health insurance exchanges attached to the federal Affordable Care Act. Another bill, filed by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, in January would decrease regulation of the funds collected from the state’s “Choose Life” automotive license plates. State Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, is expected to reintroduce his Florida for Life Act that would make all abortions illegal except in cases where the life of the woman is at stake. But sometimes the legislature is more strategic.

“For example, fetal homicide laws are nothing new,” Kunkel says. “Oftentimes the anti-choice community will use backdoor methods as a way to restrict access to or to chip away at Roe v. Wade. One of those being the fetal homicide laws where a woman could be driving down the road, she may not even know she’s pregnant, she gets into a car accident and now suddenly the person who hits her is being charged for the death of an ‘unborn child.’”

Those laws, to some degree, already exist in Florida, typically utilizing the term “unborn quick child” – meaning a viable fetus that could live outside the womb – as an actual victim in cases of vehicular homicide, manslaughter and DUI manslaughter.

Kunkel, along with her associates, has been eyeing the slow growth of the personhood movement. Documents obtained by the Weekly from a Planned Parenthood affiliates meeting last month outline the group’s strategy to counter Florida’s personhood movement with a “three-leg” approach: educating progressives, a decline-to-sign campaign and building coalition power. Although Kunkel refers to Personhood Florida as a “fringe” element (“It’s nothing new,” she says), that doesn’t mean Planned Parenthood is outright dismissing it. Rather, Kunkel dismisses the claim that Planned Parenthood is misrepresenting the truth about personhood.

“You’re getting into technicalities here, but the word ‘person’ is used thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times in Florida law,” she says. “You are now effectively changing the law to say that the law applies to every person from the point of biological development. Are you then saying that a woman who miscarries would be charged with abortion, and therefore it’s the killing of a person? Would you say that a fertilized egg used in in vitro fertilization that then gets discarded or disposed of by the person that chose to give the egg or the sperm is then killing the person? Are you saying that a drug like emergency contraception that prevents the implantation of the egg is killing a person?

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