Parental Consent Bill Starts Moving In Senate

Apr 8, 2019

A bill requiring minors to receive parental consent before having an abortion cleared its first state Senate Committee Monday. 

The Senate Health Policy Committee narrowly advanced the parental consent measure (SB 1774) on a 5-4 vote.

Tempers ran hot as pro-abortion and anti-abortion advocates clashed outside the committee room.

Pro-choice advocates chanted, "Harrell don't hear it," referring to Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), the committee's chair.

Meanwhile, an anti-abortion demonstrator shouted, "You're a baby killer!"

Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), the bill's sponsor, said the bell protects minors.

“I think it’s a fundamental right to have parents involved with the relationship with their child," Stargel said. "I think that parental rights [are] vitally important.” 

Florida currently has a parental notification requirement for minors seeking an abortion.

Stargel's bill would expand that to include parental approval.

Only one parent or legal guardian needs to consent.

Minors can also petition the court for a wavier in limited circumstances if the judge finds the minor is “sufficiently mature,” or in certain, dangerous situations, such as abuse.

The bill also exempts instances when an abortion is medically necessary. 

But Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) said she called number of the state's clerks of court and found they were unaware of even the current judicial waiver system for parental notification.

Amanda Bennet, a case manager for Jane's Due Process in Texas, said there are cases where a child’s guardian is not their legal guardian.

“Hundreds of the young women I work with went to the clinic with grandparents or aunts they had lived with for years," Bennet said, "but who had never gone through the expensive court process to get legal guardianship papers."

Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) said she worries about cases where a child’s parents are divorced, and one parent consents but the other does not. Cruz said this could put the girl in a unsafe position.

The state Supreme Court ruled a 1984 parental consent measure unconstitutional, in part, because the bill did not have a judicial waiver provision.

The court struck down another attempt in 1994.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortions in Roe v. Wade, citing the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy.

Floridians have an expanded right to privacy under the state Constitution.

Judicial precedent set by the state’s high court says restrictions on abortions must advance a compelling state interest, and they must be done in the least intrusive means necessary.

Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), said that is not the case with this bill.

“We’re unnecessarily and unconstitutionally interfering in one of the most personal and life-changing decisions one can ever make, without knowing anything of the circumstances that have brought them to this moment in their lives,” Berman said. 

Democrats also suggested the Republican-controlled legislature is pushing through new abortion restrictions to test the state’s Supreme Court. 

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three new justices earlier this year, drastically shifting the court to the right.

"We have extensively changed that portion of what was the bill before," Stargel said, referring to the 1984 parental consent measure." So, this is a very different process than what was before the courts at that time.”

Proponents of the bill argue traditional family dynamics are under attack. They say it is necessary to preserve the rights of parents. 

“I cannot imagine a situation where my children have no say what happens with their minor children," Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) said. "That’s just a basic construct. The school cannot give them aspirin, but someone can take them as a minor child to make a decision that is an invasive surgical procedure?” 

But Book pushed back.

"We’re asking a judge to decide if someone is mentally capable of having a child," Book said. "If that individual is not, then we’re sentencing children to have children against their will.” 

The House version (HB 1335) has one stop before the floor.