DeSantis signs abortion parental consent law

by | Jul 1, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill that will require parental consent before minors can have abortions, a long-sought goal of abortion opponents in Florida.

DeSantis did not make a public statement about the bill signing, but Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and other supporters praised the measure and said parents need to be involved when their underage daughters consider having abortions.

“The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts,” Galvano said in a prepared statement. “The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision.”

But opponents contend the parental-consent requirement will endanger teens who could be subject to retribution or abuse if their parents find out they are pregnant or considering an abortion.

“This law will put already at-risk young people in even greater danger at the worst possible time,” Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement. “What’s worse, it could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida.”

The bill, which passed during the legislative session that ended in March, will take effect Wednesday.

It comes more than three decades after the Florida Supreme Court in 1989 struck down a similar parental-consent law, finding that it violated a right to privacy in the state Constitution. Critics argued that this year’s version is unconstitutional, but Republican backers have expressed confidence that it will be upheld if challenged.

If a legal battle ensues, a key issue could be that the Florida Supreme Court has been controlled by a solid conservative majority since January 2019. That developed after the retirements of justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who ruled in favor of abortion rights during their two decades on the court.

Florida voters in 2004 passed a constitutional amendment that led to a requirement for parents to be notified before minors have abortions, but a consent requirement is more restrictive. The parental-notification law has a process in which minors can go to court to avoid notifying their parents about having abortions — a so-called “judicial bypass” that also is part of the consent measure.

In his statement Tuesday, Galvano said that for “those who are in a situation of abuse or where parental consent is not in the child’s best interest, the bill provides a judicial waiver process that still involves the intervention of an adult.”

But Planned Parenthood pointed to research that it said showed many clerks of court “could offer little to no information” about the judicial-bypass process when surveyed. Planned Parenthood contends the situation could be worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited access to courts.

The Republican-dominated Legislature has passed a series of bills over the years aimed at placing more restrictions on abortions. For example, lawmakers in 2015 passed a measure that required a 24-hour waiting period before women could have abortions. That law has been tangled in a legal battle.


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