Sen. Lauren Book has made an effort to highlight issues affecting women and young children throughout her tenure in the Legislature. According to a recent talk with Florida Politics, Book says she plans to continue that work during the 2020 Session.
Book identified a trio of bills that will be among her top priorities as the Session readies to kick off Tuesday.
On Jan. 6, Book filed the first of those bills (SB 1470), which would require express consent before a pelvic examination is performed on a female patient at a hospital.
“In teaching hospitals, it has apparently been a practice where they perform pelvic examinations on women without their express consent or knowledge and don’t tell them after the fact,” Book said.
“People are like, ‘What? This is not real. This is not possible.'”
Often, medical students are given time in hospitals to practice a wide array of procedures to prepare those students for an eventual full-time position.
But reports have documented students being given the chance to perform a pelvic exam even when that exam has no medical benefit. While patients often sign off on some kind of consent form before being knocked out, those pelvic exams are not always explicitly mentioned among the possible procedures.
“The only way that these things are reported are those medical students who are performing the exams feel a conflict about it, or they’ve had women wake up in the middle of these exams and report it,” Book said.
The proposed legislation would apply to all physicians, not just medical school students. The bill states a health care provider must obtain consent “from the patient or the patient’s representative” before performing a non-medically necessary pelvic exam.
The bill still allows doctors to perform a pelvic exam without prior express consent if that exam is “within the scope of care for a procedure or diagnostic examination scheduled to be performed on the patient” or is “immediately necessary for diagnosis and treatment of the patient.”
Any exam ordered by a court to collect evidence is also permitted without consent.
But for exams which do require consent, a separate notice apart from the general consent form must be given to a patient or the patient’s representative.
That form would also state whether a student or resident may view or perform the exam. Without that express consent, students would be barred from participating in the procedure.
Book says she is also working to file what she calls a “fertility fraud bill.”
Fertility doctors have been busted in the past for using their own sperm to inseminate women who thought they were receiving sperm from an outside donor. Book’s bill, which has yet to filed, would make it a battery to inseminate a woman with a person’s own genetic material without her knowledge.
“We have seen cases where women are inseminated with embryos that are not what they think they are,” Book told Florida Politics.
“I know it’s another one where people are like, ‘What is Lauren Book talking about now?’ This is an example where I think our world and medicine and technology have far outpaced where we are from a legislative perspective.”
Book said her own experiences have made the issue particularly pertinent.
“I had my kids through IVF,” Book said. “It is a very difficult process. It seems impossible to navigate when you’re in it. And we just want to make sure that there are some guardrails around the practice.”
Book is also reviving legislation that would limit a school’s ability to restrain students with disabilities.
“It’s a bill that I’ve been working on for quite some time and that has been around for quite some time,” Book said.
“Rep. Katie Edwards had been working on it for a long time, along with Sen. [Dorothy] Hukill.”
Book attempted to shepherd the bill through the legislature last year. But that effort died in committee.
The new measure (SB 1644) states that a student may only be restrained “when there is an imminent risk of serious injury and shall be discontinued as soon as the threat posed by the dangerous behavior has dissipated.”
The legislation also limits the types of restraints that could be used and increases the training for staff on how to deal with students with disabilities.
“We’ve had some issues locally within the Broward County School system where you’ve had children who are nonverbal, on the spectrum who’ve been either verbally or physically abused in schools, allegedly,” Book told Florida Politics.
“This bill will go a long way in solving some of those issues.”
Book says she has received feedback from Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto that there may be some movement on those measures during the 2020 Session.
“I’ve had some really good conversations with the Rules Chair on these bills in particular that relate to some of these assault-type issues,” Book said. “So I’m hopeful that I’m going to get some stuff moving along.”
But how much legislation will move early remains to be seen. Republicans have made a controversial bill requiring parental consent for an abortion a top priority. The battle over that bill is expected to be contentious, which could stall movement on other measures.
“I’m interested to see where we go these first couple of weeks,” Book said.
“There are certainly things in the Health Policy Committee that are important to pass because it was clearly very important to the House.”
Nevertheless, Book says she’s focused on working with Republicans to find areas of agreement. Those areas could include increased school safety measures to follow up on work Book has done as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
That includes a repeat effort to pass Alyssa’s Law (SB 70), which would require panic alarms to be placed in public schools. The measure is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 people murdered during the 2018 attack at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“It has a tremendous amount of support behind it in the House and the Senate,” Book said of that legislation. “So I hope that we move that forward.”
The Plantation Democrat has also filed a bill (SB 788) that would allow the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to establish minimum active shooting training standards for law enforcement agencies statewide.
“This is something that came out of the Commission’s work,” Book said of that effort.
“Should you be safer because you live in Miami-Dade or Broward [County] versus Orange?”
The lack of an active shooter standard was referenced during the proceedings to remove Scott Israel as Broward Sheriff. Special Master Dudley Goodlette argued that without a standard to compare with BSO’s training program under Israel, it was difficult to determine whether that agency’s standards were so insufficient as to justify Israel’s removal.
“Leadership is certainly very, very interested in continuing to follow the work of the Commission,” Book said.
“Whatever moves forward from a safety perspective, I do hope that is something that is included.”