Requiring parental consent for abortions begins moving in the Florida Senate
A bill that would require minors to have parental consent for abortions is now moving through the Florida Senate, after the Senate Health Policy committee voted Monday to advance the bill. The 5-4 vote was largely along party lines.
SB 1774, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would add new requirements for minors to have abortions, requiring them to obtain either parental consent or a judicial waiver before the procedure can be done.
In Florida, if a minor is seeking an abortion, state law currently requires that a parent or guardian be notified, with exceptions in cases such as medical emergencies. The law also allows minors to obtain a judicial waiver from the notification requirement under certain circumstances, such as if they are already parents or have other extenuating circumstances.
The abortion measure has been gaining renewed attention against the backdrop of a changed state Supreme Court that some advocates on both sides have suggested might change past judicial precedent in the state of Florida, though other more restrictive bills that would shorten the period during which abortions can be performed have stalled in each chamber.
Stargel said current law means all a minor needs to do is "walk into the family and say, ‘I have made this decision and I am notifying you,’ then they are on their way.” She cast the legislation as a way to strengthen families by “allowing the family to have a conversation.”
But opponents have cast the bill as a blow to existing access to abortions, and pointed to a similar law requiring parental consent that was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 1989, citing a broad state constitutional right to privacy that the courts have asserted applies to a woman’s pregnancy. A law pertaining to parental notification was also struck down in 2003, though voters the following year approved a constitutional amendment to create a new notification law.
Dozens of pro-choice and pro-life advocates testified in committee, though the chair of the committee Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, limited testimony, citing time restrictions, to a minute each.
Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, who voted against the bill, called it “blatantly unconstitutional” and suggested that she expected the bill, if passed, to be re-litigated in the courts.
Berman also asked Stargel if the bill had been explicitly raised to bring the issue before the state Supreme Court, which has three new justices on the bench appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Though other lawmakers supporting abortion restrictions this year have suggested the new court could play a role, Stargel rejected the suggestion.
The bill mirrors an already-advancing House proposal that is poised to reach the House floor later this week, though it differs in some respects from its Senate companion. Among them is how the bill is written: Although the House measure rewrites existing law, the Senate version does not, which some suggested might require minors to apply twice for judicial waivers – one to exempt them from the existing notification requirement and one from the proposed consent requirement.
The Senate version is also missing a clause present in the House version that would increase the existing penalty for violating the state’s “born alive” law: The House’s bill would make not caring for an infant born alive during an abortion procedure punishable as a third-degree felony rather than a first-degree misdemeanor.
Stargel said after the hearing that she is open to amending the proposal to clarify the potential double waiver issue and open to the increased "born alive" penalty as well.
The House version of the bill — House Bill 1335, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach — is scheduled for its final committee hearing Tuesday afternoon. In the Senate, it must be heard twice more before it can be considered by the full chamber.