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Abortion notice bill goes to Chiles

Young girls seeking abortions in Florida can't keep it a secret from their parents, the Legislature has decided.

In a move sure to provoke a court challenge, the state Senate approved legislation Thursday that would prohibit abortions on minors unless at least 48 hours notice is given to one of her parents or a legal guardian.

The House has already passed the bill, so it goes to Gov. Lawton Chiles for approval.

Even lawmakers who say they support abortion rights voted for the bill, which passed the Senate 31-9.

"I am pro-choice" said state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville. "But we're not talking about denying a woman from making that decision. We're talking about helping a child to communicate with her parents."

Sen. Betty Holzendorf, D-Jacksonville, who also described herself as pro-choice, talked about complications and even death from botched abortions. "That child should have somebody that's going to be with them in case they die."

"When my daughter was 13, she couldn't even go to the mall to get her ears pierced," said Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, who sponsored legislation to ban so-called "partial-birth" abortions last year.

But senators who voted against the bill said this isn't a perfect world of perfect families _ not every girl will be able to talk to her parents. Some will fear upsetting their parents or being disciplined by them.

"I think we're trying to legislate relationships between young women and their families," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, who voted no.

Other lawmakers tried to change the bill _ which would have blocked it from going to the governor.

Sen. Patsy Kurth, D-Palm Bay, pushed for an amendment that would require that notice be given as well to the boys' parents.

"I believe the parents of sons would want to know if their sons were responsible for a pregnancy," Kurth said. But her amendment failed.

The vote Thursday followed the defeat of another abortion-related bill in the state House earlier this week. That bill would have placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot allowing laws that would require a parent's consent for an abortion.

In a landmark case in 1989, the Florida Supreme Court overturned a parental consent law, saying it violated Florida's constitutional privacy rights.

Attorney Charlene Carres, who won that case, said Thursday evening that she expects the court will view notice requirements no differently than consent.

She said she has grown frustrated by the misinformation in the abortion debate. She says abortions are considered safe procedures, and statistics don't necessarily back up claims that consent laws reduce teen pregnancy. A girl could just go to a neighboring state that doesn't require consent or notice to get an abortion, Carres said.

The notice bill's sponsor, Sen. Katherine Harris, R-Sarasota, has been pushing the bill, saying it will reduce teen pregnancies.

In any case, anti-abortion groups don't expect that Gov. Lawton Chiles, who has generally supported abortion rights, will approve the notice bill.

"He'll probably veto it. He's out of touch," said John Dowless, of the Christian Coalition in Florida.

Chiles has not taken a public position on the bill.

The notice bill does allow some exceptions. A judge could waive the notice requirement if a girl is determined to be "sufficiently mature" to decide to have an abortion or there is clear evidence of abuse by one of both of her parents.

The legislation would take affect July 1, 1999, if the governor signs it.