Parental consent bill stalls as Democrats mount opposition

FAMU Generation Action Secretary, Crishelle Bailey, speaks at anti-abortion rally. Photo courtesy Tallahassee Democrat

Planned Parenthood volunteers and supporters attended a rally and committee hearing on Tuesday in opposition to proposed parental consent legislation in the Florida Senate.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 404, which would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on a minor unless the physician has received a signed consent from the minor’s parent or guardian.  A bevy of conservative senators are co-sponsors of the bill.

Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, called the proposed legislation an invasion of privacy as she expressed her opposition.

“We know that there is a constitutional right to privacy in the state of Florida and that it is a much higher standard than the United States Constitution. In my opinion, there is no reason why we should be intruding upon this,” Berman said.

Democratic Senators Berman, Lauren Brook (Plantation) and Janet Cruz (Tampa) introduced 15 amendments during the hearing, all of which failed. But their efforts extended the committee hearing to the point that any action was postponed until December.

“The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a personal and private one. The meat of this bill already is a graver threat to our privacy and the addition of the reported requirements only exasperated this threat,” Berman said.

Activists rally in opposition of the anti-abortion bill. Photo courtesy Tallahassee Democrat

Imani Hutchinson, a junior social work major at Florida A&M University, attended the rally and waved in support of amendments introduced by Senators Berman, Brook, and Cruz.

“This bill is explicitly another step in dismantling Roe v Wade, a woman’s right to choose. This goes beyond abortions, they are limiting access to information, cutting funding for facilities that provide safe and legal abortions, and now putting the courts in the middle of the autonomy of young vulnerable women,” said Hutchinson.

Other Planned Parenthood volunteers in attendance protested during the hearing that their appearance cards submitted were not announced, but were quickly shut down by Senator Harrell as she stated that they were out of order.

Rosie Richeson, Planned Parenthood’s Tallahassee lead organizer, was present at the hearing.

“During this particular hearing, several of our volunteers who filled out multiple speaker cards were not heard or documented to have filled those out. This was an obstruction of justice and democracy and led to our volunteers — who are all citizens of Florida – feel like the democratic process failed them,” Richeson said.

Activists and volunteers rally against Senate Bill 404. Photo courtesy Tallahassee Democrat

The bill, coined the Trojan horse for abortion restrictions, is being used as a foot in the door for more abortion restrictions.

Sen. Baxley went as far as telling a crowd that this case “could open the door for many other accomplishments that save lives.”

Senators ran out of time to vote due to what Baxley described as “gaming the system” to delay the bill’s progress.

“This is not game playing,” Berman said. “This is peoples’ lives, reproductive health and our right to privacy.”

Although the hearing lasted for nearly two hours, the vote was pushed back into most likely next month.

“We will continue to uplift the voices of young people in our state who will be affected by this bill. We will also continue to call out this bill for what it is – an attempt to strip away our constitutional right to privacy and further restrict access to abortion in the South. We will also continue to work with our champions in the Senate who fight and debate this bill in senate hearings,” said Richeson.