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Parental Consent Abortion Bill Backed

Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach
News Service of Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida could block teenagers from getting abortions unless their parents agree, under a bill that began moving forward Tuesday in the Republican-dominated House. 

The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted along mostly partisan lines for the proposal (HB 1335), which goes beyond current requirements that call for parents to be notified when their daughters seek abortions. Tuesday’s vote followed a confrontation between lawmakers and audience members, which led to two people being removed from a committee room.

The legislation, if ultimately approved, could spark a lawsuit that could wind up before a revamped Florida Supreme Court.

Bill sponsor Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, said her bill was not about creating a test case for the court but is about pursuing issues she believes in. Gov. Ron DeSantis in January appointed three new justices, moves that are expected to lead to a more-conservative Supreme Court.

“I think the new court can always make a difference,” Grall said. “But I think my track record as a member who is committed to pro-life issues. …  I’m just trying to draw attention to the abortion procedure and the availability in our country and what that might do to a minor who chooses to make the decision without having the advice of her parents moving forward. It’s just a natural place for me to be.”

A Senate version of the bill (SB 1774), sponsored by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, has not been heard in committees.

Florida for more than a decade has had a law requiring parents to be notified before minors get abortions. But Grall’s proposal would go further in requiring parental consent. The bill would ban physicians from performing or inducing abortions unless they have met the parental-notice and parental-consent requirements.

The bill includes exemptions to the parental-consent requirement. For example, it would include exemptions for minors with medical emergencies and for minors who already are parents. Also, it would allow minors to go to court to ask judges for waivers to the parental-consent requirement, similar to waivers allowed under the parental-notification law.

The Legislature passed a similar parental-consent law in 1988, but the Florida Supreme Court, relying on the privacy clause in the state Constitution, ruled it was unconstitutional. A staff analysis of Grall’s bill noted that the measure “may implicate the privacy rights” established by the state Constitution.

In 2004, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that authorized the Legislature to create a parental-notification law. The following year, lawmakers passed a parental notification law that was challenged and upheld.

House Health Quality Chairwoman Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, ordered House staff to remove two audience members from the committee room Tuesday for speaking out during debate on Grall’s bill.

Committee member Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, said the “opposition that we have mostly heard from today is from people who financially stand to benefit from this procedure.”

Though Burton warned audience members against speaking out, 19-year old Heather-Ann Irons, a Sante Fe College student, exclaimed from her seat that she wasn’t an abortion provider and had no financial gain.

After the woman was removed from the committee room, Sullivan continued her remarks about opponents and people making money from abortions. That’s when longtime Florida National Organization for Women lobbyist Barbara DeVane also started shouting over Sullivan’s remarks.

“That’s not true,” she shouted.

DeVane said after the meeting that in her 46 years of lobbying the Legislature, she had never been removed from a committee room during debate.

In addition to addressing the parental-consent issue, the bill also would increase the penalty for violating a 2013 law that provided protections for infants born alive due to failed abortions. Under the 2013 law, infants born after unsuccessful abortions are entitled to the same rights, powers and privileges as any other children.

Physicians who violate the law are subject to first-degree misdemeanors. But Grall’s bill would increase the penalty to a third-degree felony.