INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ― The Indian River County legislative delegation in Tallahassee played a major role in the passage of a new anti-abortion law signed June 30 by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Gov. DeSantis signed Senate Bill 404, which requires parental consent for a physician to perform an abortion on a minor.
According to a statement from the Florida Senate, the new law prohibits a physician from performing an abortion on a minor unless the physician has received a notarized, written consent statement with specified language signed by the minor’s mother, father, or legal guardian, and the physician has been presented with proof of identification by the parent or legal guardian.
The consent requirement does not apply if the abortion is performed during a medical emergency when there is insufficient time to obtain consent, or if the minor receives a judicial waiver of parental consent.
Doctors who perform abortions for minors without parental consent could face third degree felony charges and up to five years in prison.
Representative Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican who represents District 54 in the Florida House of Representatives, which includes Indian River County and part of St. Lucie County, sponsored the House version of the parental consent bill.
Senator Debbie Mayfield, a Republican member of the Florida Senate who represents District 17, which includes Indian River and southern Brevard counties, was a co-introducer of the bill in the Senate.
The House released a statement from Rep. Grall after the House version of the bill passed.
“A child cannot simply tell their parents they are going on a field trip or even playing a school sport. So, why would we accept that a child can simply inform their parents they intend to have an abortion? This bill gives a child the support system she needs when she is in her most vulnerable state. The parent is the best-equipped person to offer advice, support, and make decisions in the best interest of their daughter. I am deeply thankful for my fellow lawmakers who have voted to put families and life first today.”
Planned Parenthood of Florida and the ACLU of Florida both opposed the bill. In a statement released by both groups, they said “When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, most young people voluntarily disclose it to a parent or other trusted adult, like a family member or teacher. Teens who have a supportive relationship with parents are likely to consult them about an abortion decision but not all young people are fortunate enough to have a healthy relationship with their parents. Those who do not share it with parents usually have a good reason.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that parents cannot have an absolute veto over their child’s decision to have an abortion. The court says there must be an option for a judicial bypass that allows a minor to go to court and prove why she cannot ask her parents’ permission, such as in cases of child abuse.
The Florida law does allow the minor to petition a court to prove she is the victim of child abuse or sexual abuse inflicted by one or both of her parents or her guardian. If that is proven to the court's satisfaction, parental consent is not required, but parental notice of the abortion is still required.
That is not sufficient for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, which said “This legislation puts those most vulnerable, those who most need protection, in harm’s way or forces them to go to court. These young people don’t need a judge, they need a counselor. Restricting young people’s access to abortion only causes delays, which pushes the procedure later in pregnancy and carries a greater risk of complications.”
Florida is the sixth state to require both parental consent and notice before minors can get an abortion. An estimated 1,500 minors have abortions in Florida each year, according to Liberty Counsel, an anti-abortion law firm.
Gov. DeSantis credited Rep. Grall when he signed the bill into law.
“Great pro-life effort by Senator Kelli Stargel (Lakeland) and Representative Erin Grall on SB 404, which requires minors to receive parental consent before having an abortion,” Gov. DeSantis said. “Thank you for your work on behalf of Florida families.”
After Gov. DeSantis signed the bill, Rep. Grall issued a statement that said “Today is a win for Florida families.”