The Phoenix Flyer

Group says privacy rights threatened by legislation seeking to limit access to abortions

By: - October 16, 2019 2:41 pm

ACLU photo

With lawmakers ready to take up a parental-consent abortion bill next week, a reproductive rights group is warning that the legislation is potentially “alarming” and could lead to new limits on the right to privacy in Florida.

The House Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to hear legislation (HB 265) from Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, requiring women under the age of 18 to have parental consent before ending a pregnancy.

The House voted 69-44 for a similar bill in the 2019 session. But the measure died in the Senate.

In a memorandum released Wednesday, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates warns the legislation may be the initial step in a broader effort to restrict reproductive rights in Florida.

“We oppose these bills as bad public policy that will further endanger our already at-risk young people,” Planned Parenthood said. “But we also recognize passing this legislation is just the first step in a much larger and more alarming plan to have our constitutional right to privacy reinterpreted to no longer safeguard access to abortion in one of the last places it’s still available in the entire southeast — Florida.”

In 1989, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a parental-consent abortion law, citing the privacy provision in the state Constitution. Florida is one of five states with a specific privacy provision in its Constitution.

In 2003, the state Supreme Court overturned a parental-notification abortion law, citing the constitutional right to privacy.

But Planned Parenthood says “real motivation” for the new legislation is an attempt to get the Florida appellate courts — which former Gov. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis have populated with conservative judges — to reinterpret the constitutional privacy provisions.

“This legislation is a stalking horse intended to open the door to a flood of abortion restrictions that have, up until now, been overturned in the courts because of the strong privacy protections in Florida’s Constitution,” Planned Parenthood said.

As for opposing Grall’s parental-consent bill, Planned Parenthood said, “most young people already seek the counsel of their parent or guardian when it comes to a decision like this.”

“If they don’t, there’s usually a good reason,” the group said. “That’s why leading health and medical professionals oppose these laws. And requiring this burdensome restriction will impact young people who already face obstacles to accessing care. Good parents want to be involved but good family communication can’t be imposed by politicians.”

Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, has filed a similar parental-consent bill (SB 404) in the Senate for the 2020 Legislature, which begins in January.

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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.