Parental consent passes key Florida Senate committee

By Dave Andrusko

Good news for pregnant teenagers, parents, and unborn children came out of Florida yesterday as a key Senate committee passed a measure that requires minor girls under 18 to obtain a parent’s or guardian’s consent to abort.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Elizabeth Koh nicely summarized the situation in the lead to her story:

A key Florida Senate committee voted Tuesday, along party lines, to advance a bill that would require parental consent for abortion, overcoming a procedural hurdle by Democrats last month to stall the legislation. The 6-3 vote also begins moving what is likely to be one of the legislative session’s most controversial bills through the more moderate Senate, which looks likelier this year to pass the proposal.

Koh explained that testimony—pro and con on SB 404—took up most of Tuesday’s hearing. For example, “The parents have a fundamental right to care for the child and make decisions for their healthcare,” said Joan Fowinkle, a retired high school teacher in Leon County, who spoke in favor of the bill. “The state must respect the rights of good parents to fulfill their duties toward their children as their conscience dictates.”

The four Health Policy Committee Democrats had “run out the clock” in a prior hearing by offering more than a “dozen failed amendments.”

“But with one Democrat missing at Tuesday’s meeting for health reasons, the remaining three — Sens. Lauren Book, D-Plantation; Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg — could not stop the committee from taking a vote for a second time Tuesday,” Koh reported.

As NRL News Today explained, a companion bill in the House, HB 265, is on a fast track to passage, having been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 12-5 vote, once the legislative session opens on January 14.

“Senate Health Policy Chair Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said following Tuesday’s vote that the House’s action could give added momentum for the Senate to act,” according to reporter John Kennedy. “I think if they pass the bill out … people will be looking for it,” Harrell said.

Florida already has a parental notice law. But state Sen. Kelli Stargel, the bill’s sponsor, said the parental consent would ensure a “conversation” inside families.

According to Kennedy, this was personal for Stargel who became pregnant as a teenager and feared telling her mother:

“When I spoke to her, she actually advised (I have) an abortion,” Stargel said. “I didn’t go that direction. We had a discussion about it and when I told her I wanted to have my child she supported me. I think those same things may happen in a situation with other families.”

Kennedy explained that the state Supreme Court overturned a parental consent law 30 years on the grounds that it violated the state’s constitutional right to privacy.

“But those promoting the consent measure think the current court is ready to revisit that ruling,” Kennedy wrote. “Gov. Ron DeSantis named three conservative justices in January to replace retired, more liberal leaning members. The restructured court may take a narrower view of privacy.”

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