The House is ready for a final vote on a bill clarifying legislation approved last year requiring affirmative consent before pelvic exams.
Last year’s bill and this year’s clarifying measure (SB 716) both come from Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat. The House took up Book’s new bill Monday on second reading, It will next appear on the House floor for a final vote.
During last year’s Legislative Session, Book cited shocking reports showing medical students could perform pelvic checks on anesthetized patients who may agree to a general exam routine but don’t explicitly consent to those more invasive procedures.
The bill, as approved by lawmakers and signed by the Governor, caused some confusion, however. Doctors said the bill was too vague and expressed concern consent would be required for checking infants for diaper rashes or other procedures not meant to be covered.
House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne explained some of those issues when discussing the bill Monday. He sponsored the House version of the legislation (HB 361).
“When the bill became law, some health care organizations who were erring on the side of caution — which I do deeply appreciate — began requesting informed consent from patients even when there was no chance of a pelvic floor exam taking place,” Jenne said.
“Unfortunately, this caused some very uncomfortable moments for some patients. In order to address questions raised by the medical community, the bill amends, narrows and simplifies the definition of ‘pelvic examination.'”
Another issue arose as to whether the bill applied to men, who could be affected when seeking a prostate exam, for instance. In October, the Florida Board of Medicine ruled the 2020 law was only meant to apply to women.
The original bill said consent was required for exams of the vagina, uterus and other parts of the female anatomy. But the bill also included non-sex specific terms such as exams on the “rectum” or “external pelvic tissue.”
Book’s follow-up bill eliminates that language and replaces it with “organs of the female internal reproductive system.” Only those such exams require heightened levels of consent, making clear the bill applies to biological females.
The consent measures will also now apply to “an anesthetized or unconscious” patient, seeking to remove the extra layer of scrutiny for a conscious patient. And where pelvic exams are “in the standard of care for a procedure to which the patient or the patient’s legal representative has consented,” extra consent would not be required. That covers patients who, for instance, willingly show up for a gynecological exam.
The Senate has already approved Book’s clarifying measure, meaning a full House floor vote is the final step before heading to the Governor’s desk.