Tea Party “Constitutionalism” on Abortion

This post has been changed slightly to clarify issues of Constitutionality — ed. 
Florida’s bitterly contested governor’s race just got more controversial. When Tea Party-backed Rick Scott won the Republican nomination the (also very conservative) defeated Republican, Bill McCollum, refused to endorse him (Scott has “character issues” in terms of Medicare fraud) with some pundits even speculating that McCollum might endorse the Democrat Alex Sink. The race remains neck and neck, according to last week’s Quinnipiac poll.  

Now Rick Scott may be trying to secure some of McCollum’s supporters to tip the balance. In the primary, McCollum and Scott tried to out-conservative each other on the abortion issue. McCollum opposed abortion in all circumstances but Scott, who made exceptions for the hard cases, tried unsuccessfully to argue that McCollum made such exceptions too.

Two days ago, stories began circulating indicating that Scott has moved even further to the right on the issue, supporting a Florida bill that would prohibit abortion in all cases except when the mother’s life is in danger and make abortion in those circumstances still more difficult, by requiring that two physicians agree that her life is in danger.  

The Florida Right to Life Act, sponsored in the previous legislature by North Florida representative and Baptist minister, Charles Van Zant, asserts that the US Supreme court does not have jurisdiction over abortion because the Constitution doesn’t give the Court “power to determine moral questions on behalf of the citizens of any state without their consent.” Van Zant is claiming that Scott promised to support the bill in the next session if he is elected.

The Scott campaign was not available for comment but they are not denying Van Zant’s claim, saying only that Scott has “not changed his pro-life position.” While Van Zant did not get an up or down vote on his bill, there was significant pro-life support in the legislature that did pass a requirement that pregnant women get ultrasounds before being allowed to have abortions. Governor Crist vetoed that bill.  

The Tea-Party-supported view that the federal government is limited to the very specific actions anticipated by the “Founders” and spelled out in the Constitution, could create a more supportive climate in the legislature when Van Zant brings the bill up again. Democrat Alex Sink is pro-choice and would clearly veto such a bill. The Tea-Party-supported view that the federal government is limited to the very specific actions anticipated by the “Founders” and spelled out in the Constitution, could create a more supportive climate in the legislature when Van Zant brings the bill up again, demonstrating again that the influence of the tea party reaches beyond issues about taxes.

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