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Senate Health Panel Clears Parental Consent Abortion Bill

Religious, political and social beliefs are key to the debate over whether to require parental consent for abortions in Florida. After an initial stall, the Senate’s Health Policy Committee voted Tuesday along party lines to approve the measure.

Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Gayle Harrell split her hearing room in two—those for and against the bill. People were called up to speak in groups of 10.  

"No child should be forced to have a child against her will," said Cara Gross with the ACLU of Florida. 

"I think its a very common sense bill, minister Nathaniel Wilcox said. "I feel outraged that someone will come to make decisions for my children, or try to do so behind my back." 

The League of Women Voters of Florida's Trish Neely told committee members, "making parental consent mandatory creates barriers to healthcare opposed to by medical professionals."

But not all the comments for and against the measure fell alongside the usual groups. 

Bonnie Cannoni, with the group AbolishAbortionFlorida.com, called the proposal misguided and said her organization couldn't support it because it doesn't go far enough.  "To regulate murder is to keep murder legal," she said, and called for an outright abortion ban.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, defended her bill saying,If you remove these notice and consent requirements the child is going through this process alone and that is something I strongly would like to make sure does not happen.” 

Stargel has been open about her decision not have an abortion when she got pregnant as a teenager despite her mother suggesting she get an abortion. 

The measure has exceptions for medical emergencies and court permission, though critics say most Florida courts are ill-equipped to handle requests from minors and see it as a effort to whittle away at abortion protections. The proposal now heads to the chamber’s judiciary committee where it stalled during the last legislative session.A companion bill in the House is awaiting a full vote from the chamber.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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