The Florida House on Thursday afternoon is poised to adopt a bill that will require girls under the age of 18 to get parental consent before they legally can have an abortion.
The House on Wednesday sent Senate Bill 404 to its third reading after a three-hour, often testy, debate in which the outcome never was in doubt, teeing it up for Thursday’s likely adoption.
SB 404, which was sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and passed the Senate on Jan. 30 in a 23-17 vote, substituted its House companion, House Bill 265, filed by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.
The bill potentially could be signed into law within days by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has identified the measure as a legislative priority, making Florida the sixth state in the nation to require parental consent for a minor to have an abortion.
When SB 404 was introduced onto the Senate floor Jan. 30, it was contested fiercely by Democrats, who submitted 28 floor amendments – none of which gained any traction in the chamber.
House Democrats, who never took a caucus position on the bill because several of its 47 members supported it – Rep. Kim Daniels of Jacksonville cosponsored Grall’s measure – challenged the measure with 13 proposed amendments, all of which failed.
Among proposed changes were expanding access to the measure’s judicial bypass; allowing other adults and family members, such as grandparents and mental-health counselors, to provide consent; and exemptions for rape, incest and human-trafficking victims.
Rep. Javier Fernandez, D-Coral Gables, pounded the proposal for privacy intrusions, predicting the law will spur expensive lawsuits the state will lose.
Grall said parents’ fundamental right to raise their children – and their responsibilities in ensuring their children's well-being – supersedes a minor child’s “not unfettered” right to privacy.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said LGBTQ youth and “young women at the margins” often have strained relationships with parents, adding he's skeptical they could get parental consent and could secure judicial waivers, making “challenging decisions” even more complicated for already overwhelmed, reluctant parents.
The Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental-consent law in 1989. Current state law requires parents be notified only if an unemancipated minor daughter plans an abortion.
A last-ditch amendment by Democrats to exempt rape, incest and human-trafficking victims from the waiver requirement was shot down.
Grall said the exemption was unnecessary, stating any girl facing such a circumstance should “go in front of a judge and explain what happened to her,” which would kick-start a range of services she could be eligible for to be protected.
“Very few judicial waivers are not granted,” Grall said, adding the bypass was created to provide “an opportunity to explain what it is she wants to do.”
Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said he wondered, “Will there be an uptick in the number of young people seeing back-alley abortions if this bill passes.” It was uncertain whether he was asking a question or making a statement.
Under SB 404, a parent or legal guardian must grant consent – not merely be notified – before a minor obtains an abortion.
Both bills include a judicial bypass that allows an unemancipated girl to seek permission from a judge within three days for an abortion if she cannot get consent from her parents. There also are exemptions for medical emergencies.
The bill would make it a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, for “aborting infants born alive.”
The Center Square