FLORIDA — The Florida Senate passed an abortion bill Thursday that requires written consent from a parent or legal guardian before a physician can perform an abortion on a minor. 

A similar bill passed the House during the 2019 legislative session but failed to advance in the more moderate Senate. 

The proposal is now back for the 2020 session.  The measure goes beyond current Florida law, which requires parents to be notified before minors can have the procedure.

Senate Bill 404, sponsored by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), not only requires parental consent but it enhances protections for infants born alive. 

The current law requires any health care practitioner present when an infant is born alive during an attempted abortion to preserve the health and life of the newborn baby. The baby must be immediately transported and admitted to a hospital. A health care practitioner or any employee of a hospital, a physician’s office, or an abortion clinic who has knowledge of a violation of these requirements must report the violation to the Department of Health.  SB 404 increases the penalty for violating these requirements from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Under the bill, 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 petitions the circuit court where she resides and receives a judicial waiver of parental consent. The bill also authorizes third degree felony penalties for a physician who recklessly and intentionally performs an abortion on a minor without the required consent as well as any person who provides consent who is not authorized to do so.

“This bill is about protecting minors who are pregnant. These young women need their parents’ guidance, and parents have a fundamental right to provide that guidance,” said Senator Stargel. “For those who are in a situation of abuse or where parental consent is not in the child’s best interest, the bill provides a judicial waiver process that still involves the intervention of an adult. We also increased the penalties for violating the Infants Born Alive Act, making it a felony to refuse medical care when a baby survives an abortion.”

Critics of the bill have called it a fundamental assault on abortion rights in Florida, saying all women, regardless of age have the right to chose to have an abortion. They have suggested that the bill is a vehicle for Republicans to test what could be a newly-favorable judicial environment less inclined to overturn abortion restrictions, pointing to a new conservative majority on the Florida Supreme Court installed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.