Once again, we find moral beliefs on the ballot this November. The proposed 6th Florida Amendment, or the “Florida Abortion Amendment,” is attempting to make it so “[p]ublic funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.” This does not apply to rape, incest, which are expenditures required by federal law, or the life of the mother. The Amendment is designed to “prohibit the State Constitution from being interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution.” Even though the U.S. Constitution says nothing about abortion, I’ll roll with it.
While the Amendment seems very straight-forward, it does contain some unnerving wording. The Amendment goes on to say: “With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.” Yes, you read that right; the courts would have no say on the issue of abortion if this passes. For years, the right of privacy has been used to defend abortion cases, but with this Amendment the right to privacy is appears to be compromised on the issue of women’s bodies.
There have been fierce campaigns on both sides of the issue, but some of the main concerns are the affects this will have on health care for government employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. If those enrolled in government-provided health care see this pass, the new amendment would force women to pay out of pocket for abortions.
Access to proper healthcare for women is one of the main concerns of Damien Filer, spokesman for the Say No to 6 campaign. He provided an example to illustrate this point: if a public school teacher who becomes pregnant and at the same time discovers she has cancer. If the doctor were to tell her the only chance of survival would be to undergo chemotherapy, this amendment would prevent her from using her government-provided insurance to receive an abortion. Another example is if there are abnormalities with the fetus and it is a fact that the baby will not survive once it is born. The mother would be forced to carry the baby to term, even if the child would suffer until its last breath.
We’ve all heard the arguments regarding, on one hand, protecting a woman’s right to chose and, on the other, the moral belief that abortion is murder, but there is another, serious reality that is often understated in the debate over abortion: the unwanted children who are left to the state. These children are not only abandoned by their parent, but looking at state and national budgets for foster care and social problems, they seem to be forgotten by the government and society as well.
According to State Health Facts there were 86,817 abortions in the state of Florida in 2008. The average for girls between the ages of 15-19 giving birth was 43 out of 1000. These are women and girls who are not only getting abortions, but obviously not using or have access to birth control.
This is where foster care comes in. I want to make people understand this is not just about personal moral belief; this is about the forgotten children of in this country. In 2010, there were 18,753 children in foster care. During the same period, there were 14,207 entering, and 14,366 exiting the system. These kids wait a median of 9.5 to 12 months for a foster home.
When it comes to sheltering these children, those involved in the foster care encourage reuniting children with family members. In 2010, approximately 171,222 Florida grandparents were caring for grandchildren and 8,071 were living with relatives.
While it may seem that reuniting families is a positive thing, there still seems to be an inexcusable amount of abuse in the system. According to the Child Welfare Outcomes 2007–2010: Report to Congress in 2010, there were 332,469 cases of alleged child maltreatment, but of these only 53,969 children were classified as “victims.” While the ratio may seem less alarming, there is a catch. Each case of accusation had an average of only 10.7 hours dedicated to the case. From 2007 to 2010, all Florida foster care investigations of alleged abuse averaged less than a workday.
The Child Welfare Outcomes Report goes on to break down the type of abuse and rates. Of all the children in foster care, 1.3 percent experienced emotional abuse, medical neglect averaged 2.0 percent, sexual abuse was 4.3 percent, physical abuse 9.8 percent and over half of all children in foster care, 51.3 percent, were abused in the form of neglect.
The second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II) conducted a study of child welfare investigations closed between February 2008 and April 2009, which included 5,873 children ranging in age from birth to 17.5 years in 83 counties nationwide. The study found that, “taken together, 60.9 percent of NSCAW II children 11 to 17 years old showed some risk of either a behavioral/emotional or substance use problem, … (and) some need for behavioral health services…This need was significantly greater among children living in informal kin care (78.1 percent) or in a group home or residential treatment program (73.9 percent) than children living in formal kin care (46.6 percent) or foster care (53.5 percent).”
An even bigger dilemma presents when kids are emancipated, or age out, of foster care. These children don’t just disappear or immediately become out-standing citizens when they leave; many face a lifetime of hardship. The Child Trends Data Bank reported that, “[a]ccording to the only national study of youth aging out of foster care…50 percent had used illegal drugs, and 25 percent were involved with the legal system. Preparation for further education and career was also a problem for these young people. Only 48 percent of foster youth who had “aged out” of the system had graduated from high school at the time of discharge, and only 54 percent had graduated from high school two to four years after discharge. As adults, children who spent long periods of time in multiple foster care homes were more likely than other children to encounter problems such as unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration, as well as to experience early pregnancy.”
Along with lack of education, drug abuse and homelessness, pimps/human traffickers seem to prey on those in and once in foster care. A recent article from Think Progress followed human trafficking in America and found, according to head of the state’s trafficking task force, that 70 percent of prostitution victims are foster care youth. The majority of these girls had been sexually abused before and many were runaways from abusive homes.
The world is a scary, scary place. With this flawed, privatized system, there is no piece of mind for someone who is willing to give up a child. There will forever be a lingering feeling of ‘what happened to my baby?’ With such a shaky system, is it really possible for the state to handle another 86,817 children? This amendment isn’t just about the fetus or the mother; it is also about the overall impact of a child left to the state. Yes, this article looks past the immediate arguments for or against abortion, but I feel it is important it is for informed citizens to consider future implications of their votes. If you want to protect the fetus, make sure to protect the child.