A controversial bill passed by the Florida House Wednesday could require minors to have the consent of their parents or guardians before they can have abortions, though the bill has yet to clear several hurdles in the Senate to pass in the final weeks of session.
House lawmakers, after 3 1/2 hours of heated debate tinged with personal anecdotes and references to the Bible, voted for the bill 69-44 largely along party lines. The legislation would add to an existing requirement that minors notify their parents or guardians before an abortion or obtain a judicial waiver that would let them bypass the requirement.
Critics have said HB 1335, which is the most substantial change to abortion law the House has heard this session, is an attempt to rekindle a judicial fight before a more conservative state Supreme Court shaped by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But advocates have framed the legislation, along with a handful of other bills broadening “parental rights,” as an effort to strengthen families and ensure abortions are done more safely.
“It is my belief the parent needs to be involved in the decision-making of the child,” sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, told fellow lawmakers Wednesday.
The legislation would require doctors to have a parent’s or guardian’s consent before they perform an abortion on a minor and bind them to existing requirements to notify them of the procedure. In some extenuating circumstances, minors could seek a waiver from a court instead of obtaining consent.
Those exceptions would include cases where evidence shows minors are likely victims of child abuse or sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, or a judge otherwise decides it is in their best interest. The bill would also allow waivers if judges find “clear and convincing evidence” a minor is mature enough to decide to obtain an abortion.
For minors who go to court seeking a waiver, the bill also sets standards for legal counsel. It also makes not caring for an infant born alive during an abortion punishable as a third-degree felony, rather than its current designation as a first-degree misdemeanor.
Currently in Florida, state law requires that a parent or guardian be notified if a minor wants an abortion. The law carves out exceptions in cases like medical emergencies, and also permits minors to obtain a judicial waiver if they are already parents or fall under similar exceptions.