House to vote on parental consent for youth abortions
Rep. Erin Grall, sponsor of the House parental consent bill, debates on the House floor April 18, 2017. House photo by Meredith Geddings

Erin Grall
A law struck down in 1989 is poised to return.

With the Senate passing legislation requiring parental consent for an abortion, all eyes are on now on the House .

Wednesday saw lawmakers spend nearly three hours setting up SB 404, the Senate version of a House bill (HB 265) requiring parental consent, for a Thursday floor vote.

Parental notification is the current requirement; however, consent would raise the bar and, say critics, limit timely access to abortion services.

The Florida Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 1989, but the court leans Federalist Society conservative now, meaning a challenge could have a more favorable outcome for abortion opponents.

Whereas the Senate vote was along party lines, the House vote (potentially as soon as Thursday) is destined to be bipartisan.

House sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, carrying the bill, enjoys some Democratic support: Rep. Kim Daniels is among the co-sponsors of the House version that was ultimately replaced by Senate legislation

The Democratic House Caucus was unable to achieve consensus opposing the bill as many members wanted, despite best efforts over a matter of weeks.

The bill would require minors seeking abortion to have consent from one parent or guardian, with some exceptions.

Exceptions can be made in the case of medical emergency or by judicial waiver. Courts would have three days to decide whether to grant the right to abortion.

Democrats brought forth qualms and concerns on the floor Wednesday in what was a chippy give and take, with an overt prediction of court challenges to the legislation should it become law, as widely expected.

Grall defended the legislation, with parental rights to be involved with their children’s upbringing superior to the “not unfettered” right of a minor child to privacy.

“It needs to be balanced against the fundamental rights of parents,” Grall emphasized.

In committees, critics of the bill noted that many of those facing such a decision lack strong enough relationships with parents to have those conversations.

Similar concerns recurred Wednesday.

Rep. Carlos Smith spotlighted challenges for LGBT and undocumented “young women … at the margins,” skeptical of their ability to get judicial waivers when making “challenging decisions.”

When asked if the bill had protections for them, Grall simply said “no,” adding that there may be “barriers and challenges” to obtaining waivers, but nothing prohibitive.

In cases of rape or incest, Grall urged “the girl to go in front of a judge and explain what happened to her,” with an eye toward engaging DCF.

Eventually, an amendment exempting rape, incest, and human trafficking victims from the waiver requirement failed.

“Very few judicial waivers are not granted,” Grall noted, saying it gave the minor “an opportunity to explain what it is she wants to do.”

The maturity of the minor, including understanding the medical risk involved in the procedure, is among the determinants governing whether a waiver should be granted or not, Grall said.

When asked about medical groups that supported the legislation, Grall could not produce a single group backing it from that sector.

Also left nebulous: the amount of agency that an abused child would have in navigating the legal system. Grall suggested that the websites for abortion clinics could be informationally useful.

Circuit courts could be hit or miss with useful information, Grall allowed, with the Supreme Court charged with “consistent rules throughout our circuits.”

Grall decried an amendment that would have allowed minors to go to appeals courts as opening the door to “forum shopping,” seemingly contradicting her position that these waivers are readily available.

Finally, in cases where the minor wants to give birth but the parents want termination, Grall advises that the youngsters seek “emancipation.”

In addition to the new restrictions for minors contemplating abortion, the bill ratchets up penalties for doctors terminating pregnancies of “infants born alive” to a third degree felony.

“Will there be an uptick in the number of young people seeing back alley abortions if this bill passes,” wondered Rep. Shevrin Jones.

The question answers itself.

Democrats pushed numerous amendments not mentioned above, to no avail, with a couple of them geared toward attempting to expand the list of people who could certify the child’s sought abortion.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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