In 2001, during Jeb Bush’s governorship, the Florida state assembly passed a law intended to streamline the adoption process while eliminating some of the problems. Overall, it was a good law. It brought a patchwork of regulations together and clarified things. It talked about the rights of the natural grandparents and parents of the child, and ensured certain health issues were screened for and addressed.
It also required women who were placing their children for adoption to either name the father or to pay for public advertisements with certain specified details about their sexual histories in the newspaper.
This was, I think, a well-intended requirement. No one wants the father of a child to lose parental rights without some sort of hearing. Men have a right to be fathers, just as women have a right to be mothers, to their own children, barring some sort of serious issue. (I wish state child protective agencies would figure that one out.)
But as you might imagine, there are some real issues with this regulation.
It made no exceptions for rape or incest. There were no exceptions to protect the privacy of pregnant minors (who technically are rape victims anyway). And unlike abortion, it did not respect a woman’s right to privacy. At all.
Women who wanted their children to be adopted but who either did not know or refused to name the father had to ensure a newspaper notice (in an appropriate location as determined by the court) was filed and ran for at least four consecutive weeks. The notice, according to the original statute, “must contain a physical description, including, but not limited to, age, race, hair and eye color, and approximate height and weight of the minor’s mother and of any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father; the minor’s date of birth; and any date and city, including the county and state in which the city is located, in which conception may have occurred.”
When I read this, I had to stop and take a breath. This meant a rape victim had to list all these details about her rape. A young girl who made a stupid mistake, a college student foolish enough to get drunk one night — all these women had to out themselves in a very public, very humiliating way in order to do what they thought was best for their babies.
Naturally, pro-life advocates took issue with this. Such a statute incentivizes abortion, not adoption, because abortion does not require a father’s consent. Abortion laws not only guarantee privacy for the mother, but were actually rationalized by the idea of a constitutional right to privacy. Forcing women to give such intimate details regarding their sex lives was bound to make at least some rethink having an abortion, or keeping the child herself in conditions that were probably less than ideal.
Jeb opposed this part of the bill. In fact, he signed it conditionally, stating that outside of that provision it was a good law but that he was signing it with the understanding that the publication section would be revised to eliminate these issues. However, lawyers were already lining up to challenge the law. It took two years of litigation and the law being declared unconstitutional by an appellate court before Governor Bush signed the repeal of that section and replaced it with a paternal registry clause similar to that of other states.
Here’s the real problem…
Jeb is doing a terrible job of telling this story. His attackers, however, have been retelling true and poignant stories of women who really did suffer as a result of the law.
He has a second problem that greatly compounds this one. In his 1995 book Profiles on Character, Jeb has a passage in a chapter called “The Restoration of Shame” that seems to imply shaming women who gave birth to children out of wedlock would be an appropriate community response. This passage was cited by the Huffington Post as they oh-so-kindly shaped this story for Jeb.
Legal Insurrection correctly challenged Huffpo’s reading of the story. Bush’s people responded to LI, though Huffpo claimed they did not respond to them:
The bill passed the House of Representatives 108-8 with noted liberals like Lois Frankel supporting it.
It passed the State Senate by a vote of 30-8.
Governor Bush had received assurances from the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Senator Skip Campbell, that the disclosure requirement would be fixed. He welched on that commitment.
When the repeal bill reached GJB’s desk in 2003, he signed it.
While this is at least an explanation, it does not repair the initial problem: a story is being spread about Jeb Bush that seriously harms him with women, and the rumor made it more than halfway around the liberal blogosphere before the Bush camp stepped out the door to shape the story. As of now, the Bush camp has no control whatsoever over this story.
And one more thing:
Jeb is not the only person who has to beware of this story. Marco Rubio, a fledgling state representative at the time, also voted in favor of this bill. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz voted against it. Who’d like to bet against me that the next attack on Rubio, after the New York Times pearl-clutching about speeding tickets and “irresponsible” spending, will be shaped by this?