Body Autonomy Under Attack in Florida

After nearly four hours of debate, the Florida legislature passed a bill making parental consent mandatory for girls under 18 who are seeking an abortion.

Senate Bill 404, introduced by Republican senators and passed by Republicans in a party-line vote, demands underage women have written permission from their parents or a legal guardian before the procedure. The consenting parent or legal guardian would also have to give the physician a copy of a government-issued proof of identification and provide their consent on a notarized document. Without it, a doctor performing the abortion risks five years in prison and a felony offense.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who ran on a conservative agenda of restricting women’s bodily autonomy, asked the legislature to quickly send him this particular bill during this session so he could sign it.

Rep. Erin Grall, (R- Indian River, St. Lucie), who sponsored the bill, says she is only looking out for dumb kids, of course.

“What we are talking about is a child. And here we are talking about a child who is carrying a child. By including parents in this decision, we empower the family. It is the critical backbone of our civilized society,” Grall told reporters.

Grall believes girls are too irresponsible to make life-changing decisions about their own bodies without their parents’ consent but should be forced to become mothers and make 20 years of life-changing decisions for a child.

Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, meanwhile, says underage women should require parental consent in a world with learner’s permits and R-rated movies.

“We require parental consent for a minor to get a driving learner’s permit because it is common sense. It is not common sense to suggest that getting a learner’s permit is a less significant life decision than a child getting an abortion,” Rodriguez told reporters. ”A parent guiding their children through major life decisions is a good thing.”

The Florida bill is similar to a Mississippi law passed in the 1990s that imposed similar restraints. It is part of a chain of restrictions in Mississippi meant to undermine Roe v. Wade, along with state-directed counseling (lies) designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion and a mandatory 24-hour wait period. The counseling must take place before the waiting period begins, which makes two trips necessary. The patient must also undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure prior to the abortion, in hopes of convincing the patient to carry the fuzzy, cashew-sized image on the screen to term.

Jackson, Miss. resident Laurie Bertram Roberts runs the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund that provides financing, childcare and transportation for abortion patients who need help getting past Mississippi’s draconian anti-abortion laws.

Roberts said the state of Florida is effectively encouraging young woman to resort to dangerous, secretive methods for dealing with their pregnancy.

“The biggest issue with parental consent is the fact that it places a huge barrier between teens and their right to healthcare,” Roberts told The Lighthouse. “This often leads to the very behavior we as parents say we do not want: teens hiding their pregnancies, attempting to self-manage their abortion alone and crossing state lines on their own to seek abortion care. The best way to protect and engage with your child is to talk to them.”

Roberts pointed out that the state of Florida is also being inconsistent about what it requires parental permission for.

“The thing I think most people fail to realize is in most states, a teen doesn’t need parental consent for prenatal care or to release a child for adoption. It’s only in matters of abortion do we place these additional restrictions, which shows this isn’t about parental involvement in teen lives and pregnancy. It’s just about restricting abortion access. The same people who think it’s OK for adoption agencies to enter into contracts with a 13-year-old relinquishing mothers who have no attorney or parent involved scoff at a 17-year-old having an abortion. It’s absurd.”

Florida legislators, while demanding parental consent for an abortion, apparently trust a young mother to know when to walk away from her child forever. Florida allows any new mother, older than the age of 14, to sign independently to release her child to adoption with no input from her own parents.

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