The idea may be compelling: Save a woman's life. Protect girls from medical decisions they may not be mature enough to make. Stop the rampant abuse of prescription drugs.
But good intentions often bump up against the Florida Constitution, which spells out a right to privacy in ways the U.S. Constitution and many other states' basic documents do not.
Three recent actions demonstrate that Floridians continue to enjoy some of the most stringent privacy rights in the nation: A judge ruled last week that Gov. Jeb Bush violated Terry Schiavo's privacy rights by stepping into her family's right-to-die case, the Legislature has had to seek a change in the constitution before parents can be notified of a child having an abortion, and lawmakers tabled one of Bush's priority bills to create a statewide prescription-drug database.
Privacy in federal matters relies on implicit rights derived from the U.S. Constitution's Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
A U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas sodomy law articulated last year that people are at liberty to pursue their sexual lives without government interference.
“You can call it liberty; you can call it privacy. It often comes down to the same thing,” says Roger Pilon, founder and director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies.
But in Florida's constitution, privacy rights have been explicit since 1980: “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.” [Privacy Digest]