Legislation requiring minors seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent goes before the full Florida House on Wednesday.
Florida statute already includes a parental notification requirement for minors seeking an abortion and a bill (HB 1335) sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) would take that a step further by requiring approval from parents or a legal guardian.
Under current state law, a physician who performs an abortion on a minor without documented parental notification would face a first-degree misdemeanor. Under this bill, a doctor who performs an abortion procedure on a minor without parental consent would see that penalty increased to a third-degree felony.
During a stop in Naples, last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s not familiar with the specifics of the legislation, but that he supports it. “If it’s for minors to have parental, you know, I want parental,” said Gov. DeSantis. “I think that that’s good policy. I haven’t seen the particulars of the bill, but I’ve always supported that.”
The bill carves out limited circumstances under which a minor could receive a court wavier for parental consent in cases of abuse. However, even then, a judge would have to rule that the minors seeking an abortion is “sufficiently mature.”
Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Laura Goodhue, said that’s one of the reasons she thinks this bill is simply about restricting access to abortion and not about the welfare of pregnant minors.
“There’s no law that says the young person must be mature enough to make a decision about her giving birth and becoming a parent,” said Goodhue.
“In fact, a parent does not have to consent if a person under 18 decides to continue her pregnancy. So the alternative is forced pregnancy and forced birth for minors.”
During a meeting of the House Health Quality Subcommittee in March, Rep. Grall spoke about the bill being necessary to promote traditional family dynamics and to preserve the rights of parents.
“I believe there is a large percentage of minors and parents that should be having the conversation. We don’t know if that’s happening,” said Grall.
“This puts the affirmative obligation on the physician to make sure that we’re really focusing on the family unit; on the vulnerability of the child to receive the advice and counsel of their parent who has invested much in the way of guidance throughout their life and this really seeks to put the focus back on the family in such an important decision.”
Goodhue argues that officials cannot regulate good family communication and said she worries about pregnant minors for whom seeking consent could be dangerous. She also points to a number of medical organizations who have come out in opposition to the bill.
“Medical professionals including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all oppose this legislation because they state it doesn’t lead to less abortion, but it just makes it an unsafe situation for a young person.”
A Senate version of the bill (SB 1774) narrowly passed its first committee stop last week on a party-line vote. It still need approval from members of two more committees before reaching the Senate floor.