The Phoenix Flyer

A measure to require parental consent for teenagers who want to end their pregnancies advances in Legislature

By: - March 19, 2019 3:00 pm

Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Creating a path that could allow a conservative-majority state Supreme Court to further restrict a woman’s  reproductive rights, a bill requiring teenage girls to get parental consent before having an abortion passed its first committee.

In a 10-4 vote, the House Health Quality Subcommittee approved a bill (HB 1335) Tuesday that would add a parental consent requirement to an existing state law that says women under 18 have to notify their parents or guardians if they are having an abortion. The new bill would require women to produce a notarized document from their parents and require doctors to file an affidavit confirming the patient’s identity.

Like the notification law, the bill would allow women to ask a court to waive the parental consent requirement. It would exempt teenagers who are already mothers, as well as women facing medical emergencies, if a doctor agrees the threat precludes the typical parental consent requirement. The bill would also require that young women have a court-appointed lawyer if they choose to seek a waiver.

If the Legislature passes the parental consent bill, it could set up an opportunity for the Florida Supreme Court to reassess a key 1989 decision that ruled an abortion-consent law for minors was unconstitutional because it violated privacy provisions in the state Constitution. The new state Supreme Court, with three justices appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, is far more conservative than the previous court which upheld the right to privacy.

“Why are we re-litigating an issue that has already been determined by the courts here in our state as unconstitutional?” asked Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who voted against the bill.

“Sometimes I think the courts just get it wrong,” asserted state Rep. Erin Grall, the Vero Beach Republican who is sponsoring the bill.

Grall said Florida has a unique privacy provision in its Constitution but “all rights do not extend unfettered to minors.” She said with the additional provisions in the bill, the new parental consent procedure “should be considered constitutional.”

“I think that there is a compelling state interest in the fundamental right of a parent in the upbringing of their child that should be considered,” Grall said.

Kristen Erichsen, who had an abortion at the age of 15, testified against the bill.

“There was no way I could possibly provide for a child. I knew that if my mom found out I was pregnant, I would be kicked out of the house. If I had needed parental consent, I would not have been able to move forward with the procedure, and would not be where I am today,” Erichsen said. She is pursuing a doctoral degree at Florida State University.

Opponents, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, cited research which shows that most e teenagers who choose to end their pregnancies already consult their parents about the decision. A national survey by the Guttmacher Institute found 90 percent of 14-year-olds and 74 percent of 15-year-olds involve at least one parent when considering an abortion.

The measure has two more committee stops in the House and a companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by  Lakeland Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.