TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Girls under the age of 18 will have to get a parent’s permission before having an abortion under a bill signed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday.
Despite holding a news conference to sign environmental legislation on the same day, DeSantis chose to sign the abortion bill with no fanfare and out of the public eye.
“The Governor was pleased to sign this historic legislation to support and protect Florida families,” spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said in an email.
Republican Senate President Bill Galvano announced the signing before the governor's office did.
“The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts. The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision," Galvano said in a statement to media after the bill signing.
DeSantis asked lawmakers to send him the bill during his State of the State speech that kicked off the legislative session in January. The bill was passed in February, but the legislative leaders didn't send it to DeSantis until this month.
The new law expands on a current law that requires a girl’s parents are notified before she can have an abortion. It was one of the more divisive issues of the legislative session that ended in March, with Democrats arguing that it was another attempt by Republicans to restrict abortion rights.
“From the very beginning this legislative effort was a political agenda to ban abortion in the state of Florida,” said Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani.
She said that only 3% of abortions in the nation are performed on girls under 18, and that two-thirds of those have already talked to a parent before making the decision. Among the rest are girls who are victims of abuse or fear for their safety if they tell their parents.
“This community of young people really deserves to be supported, not shamed and stigmatized, and what the intent of this bill has been from beginning is to not empower young people, but to actually make it more difficult for them to make a difficult decision,” Eskamani said.
The bill has a provision that will allow a girl to ask a judge for a waiver from the law in cases of abuse, incest or when involving a parent could cause more harm than allowing the procedure. But opponents argued that asking minors to negotiate the legal system when they are already scared and ashamed could drive them to illegal abortions.
Republicans argued that children need a parent’s permission to go on a school field trip and can’t go to an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian, so it makes no sense to make a life-altering decision on their own.
“At the very least, this common-sense law raises the standard (for) an abortion, as is required in almost every other medical procedure,” said Ingrid Delgado with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The new law is nearly identical to one struck down by the Florida Supreme Court three decades ago.
This time, lawmakers beefed up an avenue to bypass the consent requirement through the courts for minors who fear retaliation from their guardians.
“Things like providing counsel to indigent minors and establishing a record that can be appealed in case a waiver is denied,” Delgado said.
Pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood have likened the new law to a Trojan horse meant to test how far the newly conservative-leaning state Supreme Court will allow lawmakers to restrict access to abortion.
But pro-choice advocates are hopeful a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday, striking down a Louisiana law that would have restricted abortion access, will send a clear message to those in power.
“The law was a different law. The intent was exactly the same. ... And what we saw the Supreme Court say was that courts and state legislatures need to stop trying to block access to essential health care like abortion,” said Stephanie Fraim, president of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling doesn’t directly impact Florida’s new law, nor similar laws on the books in 21 other states.
The real test will be whether the changes to the judicial bypass option are enough to satisfy the privacy concerns that led the state Supreme Court to strike down the previous version of the law.
No suits have been filed against the law yet, but Planned Parenthood told Capitol News Service all options are on the table.