While his state continues to see skyrocketing numbers of new coronavirus cases, becoming a new epicenter in the outbreak, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed into law a top priority for anti-abortion groups. Without making a public statement, DeSantis approved the new measure, which will force a minor’s parents to be involved in the decision if his or her child wants an abortion.
Critics argue that the new law is unconstitutional, saying that the Florida Supreme Court struck down a similar parental-consent requirement in 1989 because it violated a right to privacy.
That may not be a factor in 2020, given that the court is now controlled by a conservative majority, but opponents of the law still say that it could put teens at risk, as they could be subject to abuse or other forms of retribution if their parents find out they are pregnant and considering an abortion.
The bill’s supporters claim that there is still a way for another adult to consent to the abortion if a child is in danger of abuse. In 2004, Florida amended its constitution requiring parents to be notified if their child has an abortion, but it included a “judicial bypass” that allowed minors to go to court and argue that parental notification is not in their best interest. The bypass still exists in this more restrictive consent requirement.
However, Planned Parenthood argued in a statement opposing the law that there is limited available information about the exception for those who need it, and that children will have even more difficulty than usual accessing the court system amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement also hinted at the Florida’s legislature’s larger project to restrict abortion access, which includes a 2015 law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.
“This law will put already at-risk young people in even greater danger at the worst possible time,” said Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “What’s worse, it could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida.”
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