The Phoenix Flyer

Pro-choice advocates warn of potential “parental consent” bill in Legislature

By: - February 21, 2019 9:00 am
Democratic state House Reps. Anna Eskamani and Amy Mercado headed Wednesday's news conference

Democratic state House Reps. Anna Eskamani and Amy Mercado headed Wednesday’s news conference

The shakeup last month at the Florida Supreme Court is sparking renewed concern among pro-choice advocates, and a group of young activists is coming out aggressively against laws that require young women to get their parent’s consent – although no such bill has been filed in the Legislature this year.

“Too many youth in our state are afraid of what will happen if the Legislature were to pass a parental consent law. These laws have been shown to put the most-at-risk youth in even more danger,” said state Sen. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orlando. “For too many who choose not to confide in a parent or guardian, it’s because they fear physical abuse or abandonment if they do. That can’t be what we as policymakers want to see. Can it?”

State Rep. Amy Mercado, a Democrat from Orange County, became pregnant as a teenager and says she had plenty of people trying to talk her out of having a child. Now the mother of six children, she says “it was my choice, my body, my way.”

“All parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenager’s lives…but good family communication can’t be imposed by the government and constant legislation of what is right for you,” she said. “The best way to protect our daughters is to begin talking about responsible,  age- appropriate sexual behavior from the time that they are young, and to foster an atmosphere at home and with your family that assures them that they can and will come to you.”

Mercado said that, in some cases, pregnant girls who are in dysfunctional or abusive families simply can’t talk to their parents to get consent for an abortion without fear of violence.

Central Florida reproductive rights activist Stephanie Lorraine says that when she was 17, she needed to get an abortion, but lived in a state with parental notification laws, meaning she had to a get a “judicial bypass.” That’s when a judge decides whether a minor can have an abortion without involving their parents. She says that to exercise her right to choose to end her pregnancy, she had to hire an attorney and go to court – all while she was going to high school and waitressing at night.

“If legislators really cared about the health and safety for young people, they would fund comprehensive sex education, affordable housing and affordable healthcare, not arming teachers, or funding fake health clinics that accept fake science,” Lorraine  said.

Several major bills introduced this year in the Republican-led Legislature would restrict a woman’s right to choose. The most extreme is a proposal that would prohibit a pregnant woman from getting an abortion if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. That could happen at six weeks, a time when most women don’t even know they are pregnant.

The recent retirement of three liberal-leaning state Supreme Court justices last month allowed Gov. Ron DeSantis to choose three conservative justices. That’s prompted concern that a woman’s right to choose in Florida could be at risk.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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