Parental consent bill for teens seeking abortions now moving in the FL Senate

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.

A bill requiring teenagers to have parental consent before obtaining an abortion moved ahead in the Florida Senate on Wednesday.

In a 3-2 vote, with Democrats in opposition, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill (SB 404) that would require women under the age of 18 to have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before ending a pregnancy. The bill next moves to the Senate Rules Committee, its last stop before the Senate floor.

In his opening day speech for the 2020 session, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supports the legislation.

“I also hope that the parental consent bill will make its way to my desk during this session,” DeSantis told lawmakers in his state-of-the-state address.

If it becomes law, the Florida Phoenix previously reported it would make Florida one of six states to require both parental consent and notification for minors seeking an abortion — some of the most restrictive barriers in the nation for teens seeking abortions.

Florida already requires parental notification for teens seeking an abortion.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, opposed the legislation, citing the increased legal barriers of both consent and notification for young women deciding whether to end a pregnancy.

“The parent is already notified. They have every opportunity to insert themselves, to talk to that minor,” Gibson said. “I don’t believe it’s necessary to add an additional component. I do want to make sure the process is not further intimidating to the young lady who is going through a situation.”

But Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who is sponsoring the legislation, said notification is not enough, saying parents could have as little as 48 hours of notice before the medical procedure is performed.

“I believe that having that parent consent requires a little bit more of a conservation between that parent and the child in trying to determine the best course of action for that child,” Stargel said.

Stargel also noted the legislation would allow young women who do not want to seek parental consent to have access to a court review, which can allow the consent requirement to be waived. Parental consent can also be waived if a doctor determines there is a “medical emergency,” according to the bill.

Florida already uses a similar judicial-waiver process for notification involving minors seeking an abortion. Since 2009, more than 3,000 young women have gone to court, seeking a waiver of the notification requirement, with more than 93 percent of the requests being approved, according to a legislative analysis.

A similar parental-consent abortion bill (HB 265) is ready for a floor vote in the House.

If the measure becomes law, as expected, both opponents and supporters believe it will present an opportunity for a conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court to reinterpret the unique privacy provisions in the state Constitution.

Opponents of the consent law argue that the legislation is an unconstitutional infringement on the privacy rights of young women.

Proponents believe the legislation could give the state’s highest court a chance to determine the constitutional privacy provision does not apply to the right to have an abortion.