Anti-abortion activists rallied at the Capitol during the spring legislative session, pushing to limit access to abortions.
They had hoped a new governor — who has an anti-abortion stance — and a more conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court, would bolster their cause.
But as it turned out, efforts to restrict reproductive rights didn’t pan out in the 2019 Florida Legislature, when the House and Senate diverted on the controversial issue.
The state House voted 69-44 on April 17 to require teenage girls to get parental consent before having an abortion. But the bill never advanced to the full Senate for a vote, and the effort died when lawmakers ended their annual session on Saturday.
The bill (HB 1335) would have added a parental consent requirement to an existing state law that says women under 18 have to notify their parents or guardians if they are having an abortion.
Like the notification law, the bill would allow women to ask a court to waive the parental consent requirement. It would exempt teenagers who are already mothers, as well as women facing medical emergencies, if a doctor agrees the threat precludes the typical parental consent requirement.
Two other significant measures to restrict reproductive rights did not advance in either the House or Senate.
Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who is also the state GOP chairman, filed a bill that would make it a crime for a woman to get an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Current Florida law allows a woman to get an abortion up to 24 weeks from her last menstrual period, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. The bill was never heard in a committee.
Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Republican, had a bill that would prohibit a woman from getting an abortion if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks – so early that a woman may not know she is pregnant. It also never received a committee hearing.
“The defeat of anti-abortion bills, ranging from forced parental consent to abortion bans, means access to needed reproductive health care will remain the law of our state,” said Amy Weintraub, Reproductive Rights Program Director for Progress Florida. “One in four women in this country access abortion and yet the attacks on safe and legal care keep coming. And we’ll keep standing up to fight back.”
Lawmakers will return in January for their 2020 annual session. And more legislation aimed at restricting reproductive rights is likely to be on the agenda again.
If one of the measures passes — and is approved by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who supports the legislation — it could set up an opportunity for the Florida Supreme Court to reassess a key 1989 decision that ruled an abortion-consent law for minors was unconstitutional because it violated privacy provisions in the state Constitution.
The new state Supreme Court, with three justices appointed by DeSantis, is far more conservative than the previous court which upheld the right to privacy.
Still, anti-abortion activists remain disappointed, both in Florida and nationwide.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national group called the Susan B. Anthony List, released a statement, saying “It is unfortunate that the Florida Legislature missed a leadership opportunity and these popular, common-ground bills did not become law this year.”
At the same time, “We are grateful to our pro-life allies for their work on these much-needed bills. Despite this disappointment, we are more committed than ever to protecting unborn Floridians and their mothers and we hope to hit the ground running on a dynamic pro-life agenda in 2020.”