The Legislature looks set to come out swinging on Republicans’ parental consent for abortions proposal Wednesday, the Session’s second day.
But that proposal, which would require minors to get parental consent before obtaining abortions, is about as far as Republican leaders are willing to go on the issue. No other abortion regulation proposal, including Rep. Mike Hill’s heartbeat bill (HB 271), has yet received a committee hearing date.
Since the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, a flurry of states attempted pushes for heartbeat bills. In 2019, courts blocked heartbeat legislation in Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
Speaking to reporters, Senate President Bill Galvano indicated abortion bills other than parental consent would be tougher to pass. But the parental consent measure, an apparent Republican priority that has been expedited through pre-Session meetings, likely will.
“I think it will pass. I believe it will be successful in that committee as it was in Chair (Sen. Gayle) Harrell’s committee,” Galvano said.
Abortion could be a galvanizing issue for Republicans ahead of elections this year. But the double-edged sword could do the same for Democrats.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, author of the Senate parental consent version (SB 404), says the bill’s judicial exemption clause would allow for mature girls to bypass the requirement. Proven victims of abuse can also get the waiver through the court.
Stargel’s version heads Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee and will undoubtedly create fireworks in its allotted two hours. It took nearly four hours of debate over two days to obtain 6-3 approval from the Health Policy Committee in pre-Session meetings.
The House Health & Human Services Committee approved Rep. Erin Grall’s version (HB 265) in October along party lines. Next, it awaits a House-wide vote.
Two hours to debate the judicial bypass portion of Stargel’s bill may seem ambitious. Judiciary has three other measures to hear in the remaining hour given to the committee. But chairman Sen. David Simmons says he may give SB 404 additional time Wednesday to let interested parties provide comments.
“Senators are empowered, and it’s important to me that they are, to analyze thoroughly all legislation as it goes through it,” Galvano said.
HB 265 and SB 404 have accompanying bills (HB 267 and SB 406) to exclude pregnant minors from court records. The rule, which would apply when minors seek a judicial exemption, has yet to receive a no vote. SB 406 goes to the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Monday while HB 267 awaits its House-wide vote.