Florida Panel Strengthens Parental Notification on Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 21, 2011   |   5:45PM   |   Tallahassee, FL

A Florida state legislative committee has approved a bill that would strengthen the parental notification law voters approved years ago to ensure abortion advocates are not abusing it.

The bill, HB 1247, creates additional requirements for teenagers when they want to use the Supreme Court-mandated judicial bypass provision meant for rare occasions in which teenagers are concerned about physical abuse at home by revealing their pregnancy to their parents. Abortion businesses have abused the law by judge shopping and finding those who will approve the bypass for any occasion in which a teen merely doesn’t want to inform her parents of her potential abortion.

The bill extends the time a court has to rule on whether a teenager should be allowed to be exempt from the law to investigate the situation more extensively. The bill also eliminates part of the law that indicates the notification requirement is automatically waived if the court does not issue a ruling. And the bill requires teens who do get their parents’ permission to have the permission slip notarized to ensure it is legal.

“I believe at this time [parents] are not being adequately notified,” said Rep. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

“I am a parent and I see that as being a problem,” she added about the abuse of the law and using it in a way not intended.

The newspaper said Planned Parenthood of Florida indicated about 5,000 teen abortions were done in 2010 and 381 teens asked to waive the parental notification requirements.

The abortion business opposes the bill to protect teens along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization of Women while pro-life groups like the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Baptist Convention are supportive.

During the hearing, Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Democrat, opposed the legislation, which the  House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed 9-5 on a party-line vote. The bill now goes before the House Judiciary Committee while a companion bill in the Senate, SB 1770, has been referred to a committee but has not had a hearing.

In February 2006, a federal judge turned back a request from the Planned Parenthood abortion business to stop enforcement of the parental notification law. Senior U.S. District Judge William Stafford cited the Supreme Court’s decision in a case about a New Hampshire law as saying the court doesn’t think there is a basis for overturning such laws wholesale.

He noted the Supreme Court wrote that states have a right to require parental notification due to their “strong and legitimate interest in the welfare” of minor teens who need parental help in an unplanned pregnancy. “Florida has carefully crafted a parental notification statute that serves a compelling state interest,” Stafford said.

The law took effect on June 30 after Stafford refused to grant Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary injunction while the case progressed.

In 2004, Florida voters backed a constitutional amendment for parental notification, which received the support of 4,466,398 voters or 64.7 percent of the state’s residents. Only 35.3 percent of Florida voters (2,438,778) opposed it.