A bill requiring parental consent before minors can obtain abortions will again go before the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday.
The Lakeland Republican’s bill would require girls still under their parents’ or guardians’ control to seek their consent before obtaining an abortion. The bill leaves exceptions for medical emergencies and if a girl receives a court’s permission.
The Senator hopes her legislation will strengthen family units and provide girls with guidance during unplanned pregnancies instead of keeping it a secret. Florida law currently requires that a parent be informed if their daughter obtains an abortion.
“But even now with notice, it still doesn’t require a conversation, and that’s where I think parental consent requires a little more conversation in the family and can help work better to have them work together through the situation as opposed to the girl going through this alone,” Stargel said.
And her own teen pregnancy and choice to keep her baby, against her mother’s recommendations, informed her bill.
“I thought for sure my mother would kill me when I told her that I was pregnant underage,” Stargel told the committee. “It was a wonderful time in our relationship when I did tell my mother I was pregnant.”
For girls who feel they are mature enough to make their own decision or have been abused by their family, Stargel’s bill allows the girls to seek an exemption from the court, a move she said fixed deficiencies in past legislation. Minors in court would be assured anonymity and the right to a court-appointed attorney.
“If you feel that you cannot tell your parents or you feel that it would be an unsafe situation, or you feel you’re mature enough where you shouldn’t have to, then you can go to the courts and state that case and have the opportunity to go through that process without the consent of your parents,” Stargel said.
The bill would give three-day deadlines for a lower court or circuit court to issue rulings. It also enforces a seven-day period for an appeals court to rule if a previous court denied the girl’s request.
To deny a girl’s petition for an abortion, it must find if another person provided undue influence in the girl’s decision. The court would also weigh other factors, including the girl’s age, intelligence and ability to explain medical risks associated with an abortion.
Girls who prove that they are victims of child abuse or sexual assault by one or both of their parents would also be granted the judicial bypass.
All four Democrats on the Health Policy Committee tried adding a combined 15 amendments to the bill during last month’s meeting, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley called the moves, which took up the nearly one hour and a half meeting, a “delay of game.”
And while Stargel does not anticipate Democrats filing more amendments, she said not all witnesses wanting to speak Tuesday may not be guaranteed that opportunity with time constraints.
Some of those amendments attempted to address concerns that judges or clerks are not educated enough to facilitate the judicial bypass process.
“If there’re some deficiencies there that need to be fixed, I’m open to making sure that the process is smooth and that judges and the ones that are having to deal with this are adequately aware of how the process works,” Stargel said.
If approved by the committee Tuesday, SB 404 will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee before going to the Rule Committee. Accompanying legislation (SB 406) that would exempt the name of girls using the process from being disclosed in public records will also be heard Tuesday.