The Florida Senate has passed a controversial bill mandating minors get consent from a parent before getting an abortion. The probability it will land on Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk is high.
“You don’t want to tell your parents – I’ve been there, I know,” said Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, who was 17 when she found out she was pregnant. “I did not want to tell my mother that I was pregnant. Probably the hardest conversation I’ve had with anybody in my life. But I’m so glad I did.”
Stargel told her colleagues her story, when her mother pushed for her to get an abortion but she ultimately decided to have the child.
Her proposal passed on a party-line vote, and during the hour and 15 minutes it was debated, it got fierce pushback from Senate Democrats.
Plantation Senator Lauren Book says the measure runs counter to medical research, which she insists is conclusive on the matter of forcing minors to carry a baby to term being harmful.
“I don’t believe that the state of Florida should be forcing children to have children,” Book said. “We should not go against the advice of every single leading medical organization in the U.S. We should not punish doctors for listening to and acting out in the best interest of their patients.”
The measure would make it a third-degree felony for a doctor to perform an abortion on a minor who didn’t get consent. It also stiffens the penalty for doctors who violate a current law that says babies born alive during an attempted abortion must be taken straight to the hospital to get care, from a misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
Republicans pushed back on the idea of what constitutes acting “in the best interest” of children. Senator Aaron Bean came prepared with a list of other actions the legislature has taken requiring parental permission:
“To get their ears pierced … to get a tattoo on their own … before they sit in a tanning booth”
Bean called into question what he sees as hypocrisy on that front.
“But yet, in Florida now, middle schoolers, babies, can go make a life-altering decision,” Bean said.
Some Democrats, like Broward County’s Gary Farmer, say legislation like Stargel’s isn’t needed.
“In Florida, parents have the absolute right to be notified if their minor daughter is pregnant and seeking an abortion,” Farmer said, noting that he is a father to two girls. “So we do not have to pass this bill to ensure that parents are aware of a minor pregnancy.”
Palm Beach Democrat Kevin Rader says many times parents get notified regardless.
“When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, most young people voluntarily disclose it to a parent or trusted adult, in the findings I’ve looked up on the internet,” Rader said. “They go to a family member or a teacher.”
Others, like Democratic Senator Bill Montford, say not all parents are good parents, which is why he can’t support a bill like Stargel’s. Montford, a former school principal, says he saw many instances where students were too scared to tell their parents and feared for their future.
Stargel acknowledged that piece of the debate.
“Yes, I agree, this is for functional families,” Stargel said just before the chamber vote.
But, she says that’s where a provision of her bill providing for minors to be able to petition courts to get around getting parental consent, dubbed a judicial bypass, comes into play:
“This bill addresses concerns raised by the Supreme Court that a judicial waiver process must be available for minors under certain circumstances, such as when abuse (is present) or when a waiver for parental consent is in a child’s best interest.”
Opponents say forcing a minor through the court system would only add to the trauma of an already difficult situation.
The House is expected to pass the measure during a floor session, which could happen as early as next week. That would send the bill to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who asked legislators to send the measure to him during his State of the State address at the beginning of session.
If signed into law, it’s likely to get hashed out in the state Supreme Court. And it’s been there before – in the late 1980s, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and others challenged a similar law. The state’s highest court at the time decided it was unconstitutional.