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Florida Parental Consent Abortion Bill Has Tougher Road In Senate

the Florida state capitol building
The Florida Channel
Michael Rivera / WIkimedia Commons

Girls younger than 18 would need consent from a parent or guardian before getting an abortion under a bill approved by a Florida House committee this week that will head to a full chamber vote when the annual session begins in January. 

The bill was given only one committee stop — a rarity for legislation and a signal that it’s a high priority for Republican House leadership. The House Health and Human Services Committee approved it on a party line vote. But the bill has a tougher battle in the Florida Senate: Three committees would have to approve the bill.

The House measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall, would require a minor to get written, notarized permission from a parent or legal guardian to obtain an abortion. Florida already requires that doctors notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor, but parental consent isn’t required. The House passed an identical bill earlier this year, but the Senate refused to consider it.

“I pray that our colleagues in the Senate will take up this issue this year and allow the state of Florida to put parents back into this conversation with their daughters,” Grall said.

Democrats argued that the bill would violate the state’s constitution. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that a similar law violated the state’s constitution on privacy grounds. But the court is now much more conservative since Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced three liberal justices after taking office in January.

Democrats also said it might force girls to seek illegal, unsafe abortions and could expose them to violence from parents who are upset that they are seeking an abortion. Others argued that girls might be victims of the same parents they need to seek consent from to get an abortion.

“The conversation that we should be having is about sex education. If we’re going to have this conversation, we should be talking about birth control,” Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones said. “We should be talking about paid maternity leave, health care, child care and education.

Minors would be able to petition a judge to make an exception to the law, as they can now with the parental notification law.

Committee chairman and Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues said he has to physically go to his son’s school to authorize over-the-counter pain medication when the boy suffers migraine headaches.

“What I fail to comprehend is how a child can’t be given an aspirin by another adult without the consent of the parent … but that same child can have a surgery by another adult without the parent even knowing about it,” Rodrigues said.

State Representative Anna Eskamani vowed to fight the bill.

“We’ll be there to ask the tough questions,” Eskamani said. “We’ll be there to poke holes in your bill. And we’ll be there to ensure that if you dare try to pass this bill, it will be a struggle.”

State Senator Lori Berman feels the legislation is just another way to chip away at abortion access in Florida.

“Under the guise of parental rights, this is a dangerous bill to reduce access to reproductive rights,” Berman said.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the measure by a vote of 12 to six. State law currently requires parents to be notified if their minor daughters are planning to have abortions, but the bill would go further by requiring parental consent.

State Representative Mike Hill is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Parents should be involved in that entire process. It is their child. It is important that they give their consent before a life is terminated.”

Physicians could be charged with third-degree felonies if they perform abortions on minors without obtaining parental consent.

Bill opponents say many girls don’t have positive family environments to talk about the topic.

After Tuesday’s vote, the bill is now ready for the full chamber to consider when the 2020 legislative session starts in January.

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.