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Critics Of Parental Consent Abortion Bill Say It Would Harm Florida Teens

Charo Valero (center podium), the Florida State Policy Director for the Florida Latina Advocacy Network, advocates for women's reproductive rights in Tallahassee.
Charo Valero
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A Florida bill that would require minors to get written consent from their parents or legal guardian before accessing an abortion  recently passed the Florida House of Representatives with a 69-44 vote. The bill,  HB 1335,was sponsored by Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall.

Florida is already a notification state, meaning that a parent must be notified before a minor can undergo the medical procedure.

The proposal for a parent-consent requirement has sparked debate across the state. Charo Valero, the Florida State Policy Director for the Florida Latina Advocacy Network, advocates for women's reproductive rights. Valero said on Sundial that supporters of the bill would be "making a safe and legal procedure unsafe and potentially lethal," if the bill is approved. WLRN's Nadege Green spoke to Valero about the legislation.

Note: WLRN reached out to Grall but we have not received comment.

WLRN: There is a waiver process that [minors] would have to go through. Walk us through what that waiver process would be.

VALERO: The waiver process is called judicial bypass and it would require a minor to go in front of a judge and essentially prove or show their maturity to be able to consent or have access to this procedure. 

The thing about that judicial bypass is when we're thinking about a minor, this is a person who's under 18 years old, the clock is ticking and who knows when they found out that they were pregnant. We've got laws that are already limiting when they can access care and now you are putting on a ticking clock. You are asking them to navigate this very complicated system. We've heard a lot of people in the legislature share their stories and even the clerk of courts in the county sometimes don't have direct process on how to refer people to these services. So you're asking a young person who's under a state of duress.

You heard from people talking about their experiences. What are some of the testimonies you're hearing while in Tallahassee?

One of the biggest stories that sticks out is a person (who is already an adult) was sharing their story when they were seeking judicial bypass a couple of years ago. They were talking about the burden of the process that they have to go through -- calling the clerk of court, getting in front of the judge and the paperwork that they had to get together. And that's just navigating the legal process. Thinking about the lawyer, the funding, the time from school, writing your story, making sure that you're prepped and convincing them that this is why you need this.

Then we've also had folks who didn't have that option, who weren't lucky enough and were young parents. And now as older folks with minor young folks that they're parenting are saying we trust our young folks to make these decisions for themselves and we support them. What parents know and what research shows is that most minors will talk to parents or their guardians and if they can't it's for a very unique reason. There's fear of safety. Maybe the guardian is the one who's responsible for this.

You're talking about an incident of rape for example.

Yeah. Minors are forced to navigate an extremely complicated process that adults have a hard time even understanding and on top of that they have all these other resources that they have to deal with so it just seems almost a very huge barrier and seems like the only option would be to force these minors into parenthood, which is very alarming.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that most minors do involve their parents when considering an abortion. And they cautioned that when states require parental consent it actually increases the risk of harm -- psychological and physical -- to minors. When you think of those concerns, how does time impact the potential health outcome of a young person who is seeking an abortion?

You'd be forcing the minor to wait later and later and later in their pregnancy. To add to that folks at the American Medical Association, The Society for Adolescent Medicine, The American Public Health Association -- there is a wide range of medical and health care professionals and providers that oppose this. So 90% of 14 year olds and 74% of 15 year olds say that they have involved at least one parent or guardian in their abortion decision. When we're talking about the impact and the trauma it's not just psychological ...

When you ban safe and legal abortion care people die. Because people find other ways of seeking this procedure. So it also makes it very physically unsafe if you don't give a minor an avenue or support them through this process. They're going to find a way and that's when you're also just making a safe and legal procedure unsafe and potentially lethal.

You can read House Bill 1335 below. 

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.