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Parental Consent Measure One Step Away From Florida Senate Vote

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala (News Service of Florida)

A day after Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed the issue in his State of the State address, Republican lawmakers Wednesday continued moving forward with a proposal that would require parental consent before minors could have abortions. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 to approve the measure (SB 404) which is now one step away from going to the full Senate. A similar House bill (HB 265) is ready for a vote in the full House.

Like at earlier hearings, the Judiciary Committee meeting drew a crowd that reflected a deep divide about abortion laws. Supporters of the proposal said requiring parental consent before teenage girls could have abortions goes to “fundamental” parental rights.

“There’s no muddy water here. This is very clear,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. “This is how do you see parental rights and, more importantly, parental responsibility. There’s a reason that children have parents. They’re children. They’re minors. They cannot offer consent. They cannot contract business.”

But Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the bill is “dangerous to minors.”

“The reality is if a minor does not want to have a child, they will find a way to make sure they don’t,” Gross said. “And if they aren’t able to access the care they need with the support of their parents, they will utilize a less-safe method. This bill won’t prevent abortions, it will prevent safe and legal abortions and greatly endanger our youth.”

Florida already has a requirement for parents to be notified before minors have abortions, but a consent requirement would be more restrictive. The current law has a process in which minors can go to court to avoid notifying their parents about having abortions --- a so-called “judicial bypass” that also is part of the consent proposal.

The Florida Supreme Court in 1989 struck down a parental-consent law, finding that it violated a right to privacy in the state Constitution. But supporters of this year’s proposal have expressed confidence that it would be upheld, at least in part because of a new conservative majority on the court.

During his State of the State address Tuesday, DeSantis briefly alluded to the parental-consent issue, saying he hopes it will “make its way to my desk during this session.” Lawmakers have been split along party lines about the proposal, but the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans who could pass it without Democratic support.

The Senate bill, which is backed by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, needs to clear the GOP-led Rules Committee before it could go to the full Senate.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who was joined by Baxley and Judiciary Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, in supporting it Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, voted against it.