By Tom Urban, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — After rallying and testimony from numerous activists on both sides of the issue, a Senate panel Monday approved a proposal that would require minors to receive parental consent before having abortions.
The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 5-4 to support the bill (SB 1774), sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. The bill needs approval from two more committees before it could go to the Senate floor.
State law currently requires parents to be notified if their daughters are planning to have abortions, but the Senate proposal would go further by requiring parental consent. Stargel and other supporters of the bill say minors should have candid discussions with their parents before deciding to have abortions.
“We have parental notice. All that does is allow the child to walk into the family and say, ‘I have made this decision and I am notifying you.’ Then they are on their way,” Stargel said. “This is strengthening the family, by allowing the family to have a conversation about the subject matter and come to a conclusion.”
But Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, said there is no need for the legislation and that it is an attempt to limit abortion rights.
“Has there been any outcry to have this change in law?” Berman asked. “Have you heard from medical people or any people who have said this change is needed, when the system is currently working?”
The bill includes exemptions for situations such as minors who have health emergencies or who already have children. A similar measure (HB 1335), sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the House Health & Human Services Committee and could then go to the full House.
A parental-consent requirement, if ultimately approved, would likely spark a lawsuit that could wind up before a revamped Florida Supreme Court, which in 1989 struck down a parental-consent law.
People on both sides of the issue say a parental-consent law could be a test case for the Supreme Court, which was overhauled in January when new Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three justices, each more conservative than the justices they replaced.
“There are concerns, because we wouldn’t want this to get to the court and then have some activist judges turn this into an opportunity to really reverse things in our Constitution and significantly and disproportionately affect women,” said Laura Hernandez of Floridians for Reproductive Freedom.
But like Stargel, John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said parents need to be involved in minors’ abortion decisions.
“Abortion is an irreversible, significant medical procedure that is fraught with medical, psychological and emotional consequences,” Stemberger said.