As expected, the Florida House on Thursday approved a bill requiring minor girls receive parental consent before receiving an abortion, sending the measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.
Also as expected, House Democrats again staged a spirited opposition on the House floor, filing numerous amendments certain to be rejected during nearly three hours of debate that, when called to conclusion, induced applause from the 140-member body.
The House approved Senate Bill 404, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, in a mostly partisan 75-43 vote. SB 404, which passed the Senate on Jan. 30 in a 23-17 vote, substituted its House companion, House Bill 265, filed by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.
“I think it’s important,” House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, said after the vote. “Children can’t go to a movie without a parent, can’t receive medications in school without parental consent, so it is consistent” with other laws.
Grall spearheaded the measure’s passage on the House floor, refuting claims it is unfair for male-dominated legislative bodies to impose laws on women and girls.
“No one group of people, gender of people owns this issue,” she said. “There is, consistently, an acknowledgement that what we are talking about is a child. And here, what we are talking about is a child who is carrying a child.”
Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami, said after “listening the last couple of hours, I really struggle to understand intent. What is the intent here?”
The bill is not about parental rights, but about making abortion less accessible, he said.
Despite the state’s "double-digit decline” in abortions, conservatives continue to say, “Maybe there are too many clinics offering abortion,” but only 18 of 67 Florida counties have clinics that offer the procedure, Duran said.
“Maybe it’s too easy of a process,” he said, before reciting a “laundry list” of restrictions imposed by the Legislature in the past decade, including requiring counseling and sonograms, and prohibitions on the use of public funds for abortion and on Affordable Care Act insurance policies offering plans that cover abortion.
“The facts don’t necessarily dictate it is the case” that government is taking away parents’ rights, he said. “The reality is, government has injected itself quite a bit” to make abortion less accessible.
The state is not “trying to take away rights of parents. Nothing in law prevents you from being a good parent,” Duran said, “So, what you are saying we are taking back those rights, but they’ve never been taken away.”
Not true, Grall said. “I believe their rights have been taken away. Somehow, a medical professional who has no interest in my child other than performing a procedure” has more authority than a parent.
The Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental-consent law in 1989. Current state law requires parents only be notified if a minor daughter plans an abortion.
“Notification is insufficient,” Grall said.
The bill includes a judicial bypass that allows a girl to seek permission from a judge for an abortion if she cannot get consent from her parents. There also are exemptions for medical emergencies.
Democrats argued the judicial bypass could be too intimidating and complicated for teenagers to understand.
“Opponents cannot have it both ways,” Grall said. “Girls don’t need their parents” to have an abortion “but the judicial bypass procedure is too complicated and they will not be able to negotiate it.”
Grall said the judicial bypass process is “not about the wishes of the child, but the best interest of the child.”