Lawmakers approve measure clarifying last year’s pelvic exam law

Female medicine doctor hands crossed on her chest
The language addresses concerns last year's law could apply to procedures not intended to be covered.

The House has signed off on a bill clarifying 2020 legislation requiring affirmative consent before conducting pelvic exams.

Last year’s bill and this year’s clarifying measure (SB 716) both come from Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat. The Senate has already approved Book’s clarifying measure. Tuesday’s House vote means the bill can now head to the Governor’s desk.

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.

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.

House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne sponsored the House version of the legislation (HB 361).

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]



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