Senator Kathleen C. Passidomo
President, The Florida Senate
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Representative Paul Renner
Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Re: HB7/SB 300 threatens health, rights, privacy, and dignity
Dear President Passidomo, Speaker Renner, and members of the Florida Legislature,
We write to you on behalf of Human Rights Watch to express our strong opposition to
House Bill (HB) 7/Senate Bill (SB) 300, which would ban abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. This extreme abortion ban would violate human rights and deny Floridians the ability to control their own bodies, lives, and futures. We strongly urge you to vote against this cruel and intrusive legislation.
Human Rights Watch is a global human rights organization with offices throughout the world, including in Miami, Florida, and an active committee of constituents from and throughout the state. We have extensively documented how laws and policies that restrict access to abortion threaten the health and lives of pregnant people around the world, including in the state of Florida. In February 2023, we published a report documenting the extraordinary barriers young people under 18 face in trying to access abortion care in Florida under the state’s existing 15-week ban and forced parental consent mandate. A 6-week ban will severely exacerbate and compound these existing barriers, placing abortion access completely out of reach for many young people in the state.
In 2020, the Florida legislature enacted legislation requiring that a parent or legal guardian provide consent for anyone under 18 to access abortion care. Studies in various states have shown that a significant majority of youth seeking abortion care involve a parent or another trusted adult in their abortion decision, even when state law does not require it. The alternative for young people who do not involve a parent—often because they fear severe and irreparable consequences—is to petition a state trial court judge for a court order in a confusing, difficult, and burdensome process called “judicial bypass.”
Human Rights Watch found that some Florida judges routinely deny young people’s requests to access abortion care without parental involvement, blocking or further delaying their ability to access time-sensitive care. We obtained and analyzed data from Florida courts on the judicial bypass process in recent years, including statewide statistics on petitions filed, granted, and dismissed, as well as publicly available court records from cases decided by appeals courts. Our analysis shows that young people in Florida who lack a supportive parent or legal guardian to involve in their abortion decision are subject to a judicial veto of their human right to access abortion care.
Each year, about 200 young people go through judicial bypass in Florida. A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that about 15 percent of those under 18 who obtain abortions in Florida each year go through the process. In 2020 and 2021, judges denied more than 12 percent of their petitions. Vague criteria in state law enable highly arbitrary decision-making, with judges making decisions based on factors such as the young person’s grades and impressions of their demeanor during a nerve-wracking hearing.
The delays caused by navigating judicial bypass—especially when young people’s petitions are denied—can make abortion inaccessible. In this context, given the hurdles and delays in the bypass process and the state’s high denial rate, a six-week ban could block nearly all abortion access for young people without a supportive parent or legal guardian to involve in their decision.
In addition, a 6-week ban would have deeply harmful effects on the populations that are already disproportionately harmed by Florida’s existing abortion restrictions, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people; immigrants; people with lower incomes; and people in rural communities. Abortion restrictions like those imposed in Florida are a form of racial and economic discrimination, in that they disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as people with lower socioeconomic status. National data show that people of color need abortion care more frequently than white people for a variety of reasons, including disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy; economic, geographic, and social barriers to accessing health care; and unequal access to health insurance and contraception.
This law will force pregnant people, including youth under 18, to travel outside the state for abortion care; to seek a way to manage abortion outside the health system; or to continue a pregnancy against their wishes.
Abortion access in the US South is already severely restricted, and a 6-week ban would devastate access for people throughout the region. If the ban is enacted, Florida would become the only state with a 6-week ban that also mandates two separate in-person trips to a clinic, at least 24 hours apart.
Finally, we have grave concerns with the onerous reporting requirements for survivors of rape and incest to access abortion care beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy. The bill requires a survivor to “provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation proving that she is obtaining the termination of pregnancy because she is a victim of rape or incest.” Human Rights Watch research in countries all over the world has shown that survivors of rape and incest face tremendous barriers to reporting abuse. Requiring survivors to provide documentation of abuse will prevent them from accessing abortion care.
Access to abortion is a human right, including for young people under 18. Human rights experts have consistently called for the removal of barriers that deny access to safe and legal abortion and have commented specifically on parental involvement requirements posing a barrier to abortion care. The proposed six-week ban would violate a range of human rights, including the rights to health, to privacy and confidentiality of health services and information, to nondiscrimination and equality, to decide the number and spacing of children, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The decision to have an abortion is a personal healthcare decision that should be made by a pregnant person, their trusted support network, and their healthcare provider. Politicians and judges should not hold the power to determine people’s ability to access basic health care. We urge you to defend rights and dignity and to vote “no” on HB7/SB 300.
Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights
 Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org.
 See Human Rights Watch, “Reproductive Rights and Abortion,” https://www.hrw.org/topic/womens-rights/reproductive-rights-and-abortion.
 Human Rights Watch, Access Denied: How Florida Judges Obstruct Young People’s Ability to Obtain Abortion Care (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2023), https://www.hrw.org/report/2023/02/09/access-denied/how-florida-judges-obstruct-young-peoples-ability-obtain-abortion.
 Florida Statutes § 390.01114 (Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act).
 Committee on Adolescence, Paula K. Braverman et al., “The Adolescent’s Right to Confidential Care When Considering Abortion,” Pediatrics (2017): vol. 139, no. 2, e20163861, accessed March 21, 2023, doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3861.
 Human Rights Watch, Access Denied: How Florida Judges Obstruct Young People’s Ability to Obtain Abortion Care.
 Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, “Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act: Petitions Filed and Disposed, By Circuit and County,” 2018-2021. On file with Human Rights Watch.
 Amanda Jean Stevenson and Kate Coleman-Minahan, “Use of Judicial Bypass of Mandatory Parental Consent to Access Abortion and Judicial Bypass Denials, Florida and Texas, 2018–2021,” American Journal of Public Health (2023): pp. e1–e4, accessed January 13, 2023, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2022.307173.
 Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, “Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act: Petitions Filed and Disposed, By Circuit and County,” 2020-2021. On file with Human Rights Watch.
 Amnesty International, the Global Justice Center, the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice, and Human Rights Watch, “Joint Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” 107th Session (August 8 – 30, 2022), https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/07/15/us-joint-submission-united-nations-committee-elimination-racial-discrimination.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2019,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, November 26, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/pdfs/ss7009a1-H.pdf (accessed March 27, 2023).
 Guttmacher Institute, “Interactive Map: US Abortion Policies and Access After Roe,” https://states.guttmacher.org/policies/ (accessed March 27, 2023).
 Pregnancy and Parenting Support, House Bill (HB) 7 of 2023, https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2023/7/?Tab=BillText (accessed March 27, 2023).
 Human Rights Watch, “Q&A: Access to Abortion is a Human Right,” June 24, 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/24/qa-access-abortion-human-right.