Florida legislature passes bill requiring parental consent for minors to have abortion

Author: Chuck Johnston and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Florida Capitol building. (State of Florida photo)
Florida Capitol building. (State of Florida photo)

The Florida legislature passed a state bill requiring pregnant minors to get consent from a parent or legal guardian for an abortion, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 404, introduced by Republican senators, passed its final legislative hurdle Thursday when the Florida state House voted 75-43 to approve the bill.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has previously signaled his support for the bill.

The Florida bill comes as several other conservative-led states have sought to restrict access to abortion, with some bills passed in the hopes that it would be challenged before the US Supreme Court to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

The bill would require physicians to obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing or inducing the termination of a pregnancy of a minor. The consenting parent or legal guardian would have to give the physician a copy of a government-issued proof of identification, and the parent must certify in a notarized document that they consent to the termination of the pregnancy of the minor.

Under the bill, any doctor who performs an abortion on a minor without consent from a guardian could face up to five years in prison for a third degree felony.

Exceptions for consent includes in cases of medical emergency or if the minor petitions the circuit court where she resides for a judicial waiver.

Under current Florida law, a parent or legal guardian must be notified before a minor has an abortion.

DeSantis said in January at his State of the State address that he hoped the parental consent bill would make its way to his desk during the session. CNN has reached out to the governor’s office.

If DeSantis signs the bill, it will go into effect on July 1.

On Thursday, five state House Democrats voted with their Republican colleagues to pass the bill, while two Republican female lawmakers voted “no” on the bill with Democrats.

GOP state Rep. Erin Grall, one of the main sponsors for the House version of the bill, said in a statement that the bill will give a “child” the “support system she needs when she is in her most vulnerable state.”

“A child cannot simply tell their parents they are going on a field trip or even playing a school sport. So, why would we accept that a child can simply inform their parents they intend to have an abortion?” Grall said.

During the House floor debate before Thursday’s vote, Republican state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, who voted against the bill, said that she wants an end to abortion, but she argued, “Terminating a pregnancy is an incredibly difficult decision, a very personal one, and one that I believe should remain a private one without government involvement.”

An attorney, Fitzenhagen described how it could be nerve wracking and humiliating for a minor to seek a judicial waiver.

“Sadly, I foresee a scenario where teenagers are going to try to subvert this law. They may try to run away. They may resort to crude and dangerous termination methods, or even suicide,” she said.

Democratic state Rep. Kim Daniels, the other co-sponsor of the House companion bill and who voted in favor of SB 404, shared that she had an abortion when she was 15 without her mother’s consent.

“Everything in my culture, everything in my faith, and the majority of my constituency puts a mandate on me that I support this legislation,” Daniels said Thursday.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by GOP state Sen. Kelli Stargel in September and passed the chamber earlier this month by a 23-17 vote.

The Florida Supreme Court in 1989 struck down a similar parental consent law, ruling that the state’s constitutional right to privacy protects a woman’s choice to have an abortion and those protections extend to minors, according to The New York Times.

In a statement, Terrie Rizzo, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, accused DeSantis and Republicans of not caring that the bill violates the state constitution, “because they expect conservatives on Florida’s Supreme Court to overturn the court’s previous 1989 decision.”

Grall argued during Wednesday’s House debate that the bill does not infringe upon a minor’s right to privacy, pointing to the bill’s revised judicial waiver process.

Thirty-seven states currently require the involvement of a parent in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Florida would join five states — Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming — that currently require both parental notification and consent for a minor to have an abortion.

The US Supreme Court in its 1989 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth said parents of minor, unwed girls cannot be given an absolute veto over abortions.

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