On Monday, the Florida Parental Bill of Rights Act advanced in the House of Representatives in a 77-41 vote. The bill would allow parents to excuse their children from public schools on days when the curriculum would cover controversial topics such as evolution, sexual education and climate change.
Rep. Erin Grall,R-Vero Beach, amended the bill to include statutes that would guarantee parents the rights to excuse their children from school if they object to the curriculum being taught “based on beliefs regarding morality, sex, and religion or the belief that such materials are harmful.”
The bill, which is also backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would also grant parents greater control of their children’s healthcare. The bill would require that school and health officials share health information such as sexual orientation, preferences and history with parents without the consent of their children. The bill would also require that minors get parental or judicial permission to have an abortion.
In the #MeToo era when women’s rights are at the forefront, the controversy surrounding this bill has followed it throughout its advancement in the Legislature.
“It scares me that if we pass this bill, we are going to put these at-risk students in jeopardy,” said Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, who voted in opposition of the Parental Rights Bill.
Berman and othersopposed to the Parental Rights Bill argue that it would be specifically detrimental to students that identify as LGBTQ+ who would not be comfortable sharing health information with their parents.
Laura Goodhue, Planned Parenthood of Florida PAC campaign manager, issued a statement that accused Republican lawmakers of deliberately passing such an influential bill during an election year.
“So, legislators, if you voted for this assault on our rights and our health, we have a message for you — we’ll see you at the polls,” Goodhue said.
Rep. Susan Valdes also believes that the bill would be detrimental to children and would “drive girls into back alleys” for abortions.
“I worry as well for these children, many of whom will be born into less-than-ideal circumstances and how effectively they will be cared for, as well as our capacity as a state to be able to care for them,” Valdes said of children born to young mothers who could not get abortions. “There are 19,000 children sitting in Florida’s foster care system right now.”
Despite opposition in the Legislature and from the public, Rep. Grall believes that the bill should not be halted due to the acts or wishes of some parents.
“We hear the stories about the bad parent, the human trafficking, the intolerant parent, the abusive parent, the parent who will kill their child. I refuse to accept that we should diminish the rights of all parents in the raising of their children because of the acts of a few,” Grall said.
If Gov. DeSantis signs the bill, it will go into effect on July 1.