Key senator backs parental consent requirement for abortion

Legislation would require minors to get consent from parents before abortions

By Christine Sexton, The News Service of Florida
Credit: Photo Illustration/Gwendolyn Sung/CNN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday said he supports legislation that would require minors to get consent from their parents before obtaining abortions, increasing the chances that the proposal will pass during the 2020 session.

“I have said, ‘yes,’ that’s something that I have an interest in and have looked at,” Galvano told reporters and editors gathered in Tallahassee for an annual Associated Press pre-session event.

The Bradenton Republican acknowledged, though, that he didn’t see other abortion-related legislation, including a so-called fetal heartbeat bill, “getting much traction in the Senate.” Fetal heartbeat bills would ban abortions at the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected and have drawn legal challenges in other states.

The Florida House passed a parental-consent bill during the 2019 session, but the proposal died in the Senate. Galvano on Tuesday attributed the bill’s demise, at least in part, to time running short.

Galvano predicted that the proposal for the 2020 session (SB 404) will be considered earlier by the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Galvano’s comments came after the House Health & Human Services Committee last week, in a partisan vote, approved the 2020 version of the House parental-consent bill. It was the only committee stop for the proposal (HB 265), which means the measure now is available for a full floor vote after the session starts in January.

If ultimately passed, the proposal would ban physicians from performing abortions on minors unless the physicians receive notarized, written parental consent or court orders waiving the parental consent requirement.

Supporters and opponents of the legislation agreed that the bill could be a test case for the reconstituted Florida Supreme Court, which struck down a parental-consent law in 1989.

Thirty years later, the court decidedly is more conservative than previous courts. Gone are longtime justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who were forced to step down in January due to a mandatory retirement age. Gov. Ron DeSantis named more-conservative justices Barbara Lagoa, Robert Luck and Carlos Muniz to replace them.

Florida law already requires parents to be notified if their daughters plan to have abortions. The law also provides for a judicial waiver process that allows pregnant teenagers to get around the requirement. But a consent requirement would be more-restrictive than a notice requirement.

According to a staff analysis of the House bill, 224 petitions for waiver of the parental-notification requirement were filed in 2017. Courts granted 205 of them. In 2018, minors filed 193 petitions, with 182 granted.

Similar to the current notification requirement, the consent bill would allow exemptions for teens who already are parents or are in medical emergencies.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said the Senate Democratic caucus has not taken a position on the bill.

‘Collectively, as a caucus we have not discussed that,” Gibson said.

News Service of Florida