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Florida House poised to pass parental consent abortion bill

The Senate passed the bill this month

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (2019 Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House on Wednesday teed up for final passage a bill that would require parental consent before minors could have abortions.

Passage of the bill (SB 404) on Thursday would be a victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who urged lawmakers on the opening day of the 2020 legislative session to send a parental-consent measure to his desk.

The Senate passed the bill this month.

The divisive issue drew heavy debate on the House floor Wednesday, with Democrats unsuccessfully offering 14 amendments to try to revamp the bill. For example, one amendment, filed by Rep. Fentriss Driskell, D-Tampa, would have exempted from the parental-consent requirement minors who are pregnant as a result of rape, incest or human trafficking. The Republican-dominated House rejected that amendment in a 70-47 vote. Another amendment would have allowed licensed mental health counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists to certify in medical records that abortions are in the best interest of minors. That amendment, filed by Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, failed in a 70-43 vote.

Bill sponsor Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, downplayed the mostly party-line votes on the amendments.

“I think the bill is in the right posture. And all of the ideas that were brought to the floor in amendments today, I believe, are taken care of in other parts of the bill or in the reading of the entire statute,” Grall said after the floor debate.

Florida law already requires parents to be notified before minors can have abortions, but a parental-consent requirement would be more restrictive. Physicians who perform abortions on minors without parental consent would face third-degree felony charges. Consent would not be required if a minor goes through a judicial bypass process or during medical emergencies where there is insufficient time to gain consent.

The Florida Supreme Court in 1989 struck down a parental-consent law, finding that it violated part of the state Constitution guaranteeing the right to privacy. Grall, an attorney, contends she has carefully crafted this year’s bill to address the concerns in the 1989 opinion, saying she is confident the parental consent requirement would “be successfully upheld.”