FL Senate panel set to consider a parental-consent abortion bill

Some 8,000 protestors on both sides of the abortion issue paraded for legislators who convened a special session of the FL Legislature in 1989. Photo by Mark Foley. State Library & Archives of Florida.

Teenagers seeking an abortion would need to get consent from a parent or legal guardian under a bill that will get its first hearing in the Florida Senate next week.

The Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled to hear the parental-consent bill (SB 404), sponsored by Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, on Tuesday.

The “Parental Consent for Abortion Act” would require a doctor to obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian before terminating a pregnancy of a woman under the age of 18.

The legislation has an exception for medical emergencies and creates a process where a judge can waive the consent requirement.

The Senate hearing, two months before the 2020 session begins in mid-January, is another sign that the Legislature is fast-tracking a bill restricting reproductive rights for women.

Proponents believe if Gov. Ron DeSantis, as expected, signs the legislation into law it will set up a test case before the reconfigured Florida Supreme Court, which is now dominated by conservative justices.

In 1989, the state Supreme Court struck down a prior parental-consent law, ruling the measure was unconstitutional under the unique privacy protections in the Florida Constitution.

Opponents believe the new attempts to pass a parental-consent law remain unconstitutional under the state Constitution.

“It is an undue burden on a young woman’s constitutional right to determine for herself whether and when to become a parent,” Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, testified before a House committee last month. “No child should be forced to have a child against her will. There is no greater governmental intrusion.”

The Florida House of Representatives is ready for a floor vote on its parental-consent bill (HB 265). The bill only faced a single committee review in the House and it passed the Health and Human Services Committee in a 12-6 vote last month.

In the 2019 session, the House voted 69-44 for a parental-consent bill.

The Senate bill must pass three committee before it can be scheduled for a floor vote. If the Senate health panel approves the bill next week, it will face subsequent hearings before the Senate Judiciary and Rules committees.

Last year, the Senate Health Policy Committee approved a parental-consent bill in a 5-4 vote. But the legislation never received another hearing in the Senate.

In the Associated Press legislative planning session last month, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, told reporters he supports the parental-consent bill.