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Politics / Issues

Gov. DeSantis Signs Controversial Abortion Parental Consent Bill

Gov. Ron DeSantis at the podium
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Florida’s new law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, requires minors to obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian before getting an abortion, except in an emergency.";

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill Tuesday requiring underage girls to obtain consent from a parent before they can have an abortion, lauded as one of his legislative goals during the election year.

Florida’s new law, which goes into effect July 1, requires minors to obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian before getting an abortion, except in an emergency.

A minor could petition for a judicial waiver from court. In order to issue the waiver, the judge would have to evaluate the child’s age, intelligence, maturity and ability to accept responsibility.

Its passage represents a political win for DeSantis, who had pushed for the measure during an election year when Republicans hope to deliver the state to President Donald Trump.

Previously, those under the age of 18 seeking an abortion had to notify their parent or guardian 48 hours before the procedure.

More than two-dozen other states also require parental consent for girls to have abortions. Florida now joins Utah, Wyoming, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas as the only states to require both consent from a parent or legal guardian and notice 48 hours ahead of the procedure.

Legislative leaders sent the bill to DeSantis’ desk on June 16, after it passed in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives by votes of 23-17 and 75-43, respectively.

Previously in Florida, state law required physicians to contact a parent or legal guardian prior to an abortion, and that notice could be waived if deemed medically necessary, or through an appeal to a circuit court. The requirements to waive the consent remain the same under the new law.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the intention was to support families by keeping family members involved in abortion discussions rather than preventing them from happening.

“Parents need to know what's going on with their kids while they're a minor living in the house,” Stargel said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, who previously worked as a senior director with Planned Parenthood, described the bill as more detrimental than beneficial.

“This type of legislation, dubbed ‘parental consent’, is really a Trojan horse to banning abortion across the state of Florida,” Eskamani said. “You realize very quickly that this legislation has never been designed to support young people and support families but actually to do the complete opposite.”

A more effective way to prevent abortions is through comprehensive sex education in schools along with better access to contraception, she said. A 2016 study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that adolescents aged 15-19 accounted for 9.4% of all abortions performed and reported.

Both Stargel and Eskamani said the new law was likely to be upheld in the Florida Supreme Court. A similar bill was struck down in the supreme court in 1989 due to the state’s constitution protecting an individual’s right to privacy. However, that right does not apply to minors, Stargel said.

“They can't go get their ears pierced without their parents knowing. I think this needs to be handled in the same way,” she said

To date, DeSantis has appointed five justices to the court. Those justices, who tend to vote conservatively, could create a different outcome than 1989 as the court may be more inclined to support the new abortion restrictions, Eskamani said.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at swalker@freshtakeflorida.com