New Florida law requiring parental consent for abortion limits harm, Catholic bishops say

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints judges to Miamis Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court March 27 2019 Credit Hunter Crenian Shutterstock Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints judges to Miami's Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, March 27, 2019. | Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law requiring parental consent for a minor's abortion, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the effort for reducing the "grave harm" of abortion.

"This common-sense measure simply holds abortion to the same consent requirements as most every other medical decision involving a child, including simple interventions such as taking an aspirin or getting ears pierced," the bishops said June 30.

"As Catholics, we condemn abortion as a grave injustice that denies the fundamental human right to life. However, as long as abortion is legal, we support measures such as parental consent that will reduce the grave harm it inflicts."

Under the new law, minors seeking an abortion will be required to receive notarized approval from at least one parent or guardian. The minor may seek a waiver from a circuit court judge.

Doctors who perform abortions without the parental consent of a girl under 18 would face up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony.

The Florida House of Representatives passed SB 404 by a 75-43 vote Feb. 20. It had cleared the Senate 23-17 in an earlier vote.

"We are especially grateful to the legislative leaders who advanced this pro-life legislation, particularly bill sponsors Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Representative Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach)," the bishops said. "We also commend the Democratic lawmakers who courageously crossed party lines and voted in support of this good bill."

The bishops thanked Republican Gov. DeSantis for signing the bill into law.

Senate President Bill Galvano, a Republican, praised the legislation.

"The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts," he said in a statement. "The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision."

The bill would expand restrictions under the current Florida law, approved by voters in 2004, which only requires a minor to give notice to their parent, guardian, or a judge that they intend to procure an abortion

The Florida legislature first enacted a parental consent law in 1979, but the state Supreme Court struck it down a decade later, saying it violated privacy rights. Backers of the new law are confident it with withstand legal challenge, given changes on the court.

Florida's Catholic bishops commented the day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

"While deeply disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision yesterday regarding an abortion case out of Louisiana, we are pleased that Florida has taken a step forward today in ensuring vital protections for parents and their children," said the bishops.

Planned Parenthood of Florida said the parental consent law would "endanger young people who, in many cases, have experienced abuse at the hands of their own parents or guardians." The group said few court clerks could offer information on the judicial bypass, and access to the courts is hindered by coronavirus epidemic restrictions, CBS 4 Miami reports.

Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said the bill "could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida."

The law also strengthens legal protections for infants who survive an abortion.

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"This law sends a clear message that here in Florida, we will do everything we can to prevent the abomination of infanticide in our state," Galvano said. "When a child miraculously survives this brutal medical procedure, that child's life must be preserved and treated with great respect and care. The penalty for refusing to provide medical care to an infant struggling for life should be significant."

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