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Fight For Girls' Abortion Rights In Florida

Forced Parental Consent Threatens Teenagers’ Health, Dignity

Protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 2, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

Today, on the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – when the US Supreme Court affirmed access to abortion as a constitutional right – Florida legislators are considering a bill that would threaten adolescent girls’ access to abortion.

The bill, HB265/SB404, would force teenage girls to get parental consent for abortion. Florida state law already requires girls under 18 to notify a parent before an abortion or go to court to get a waiver from a judge. The proposed law would require girls to get written, notarized consent from a parent or legal guardian for an abortion or to seek a judicial waiver.

Research shows that most girls involve a parent or another trusted adult in their abortion decision, whether or not the law requires it. But some girls can’t involve a parent.

I interviewed several Florida lawyers who represented girls who sought abortions but could not tell their parents. Their clients feared being beaten, kicked out of the home, alienated from their families, or forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes. Some girls didn’t live with their parents or even know where they were. Some had been removed from their parents’ care because of abuse or neglect. Forcing girls in these circumstances to get a parent’s consent could put them at serious risk.

But under the bill, the only other option to seeking a parent’s permission will be a judicial bypass. For a pregnant girl who is scared and doesn’t have parental support, going to the county clerk’s office during business hours – when she should be in school –, finding the right department, meeting a court-appointed attorney, and then proving to a judge that she is mature enough to make the decision to have an abortion, or that involving her parents is not in her best interest, is an intimidating process. And all this delays girls’ getting care.

Florida already has an onerous parental notification requirement. But HB265/SB404 will make it even harder for girls to get timely access to the health care they need. That’s why I’ll be testifying in opposition to the bill in Florida’s Senate Rules Committee meeting today.

Parents who have built loving, supportive family relationships should trust that their daughters will turn to them for guidance no matter what the law requires. And forcing girls who do not have parental support to go to court to get an abortion is burdensome and cruel.

Florida’s legislators should reject the bill.

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