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Abortion bill on parental consent next up in Florida Senate

The Senate has opposed this bill. That may change in 2020.

The always-heated topic of abortion restrictions will be front and center Tuesday, as lawmakers appear poised to move forward with a measure that in the past has failed to gain traction in the Florida Senate.

The proposal (SB 404), sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would require parental consent before minors can have abortions. The measure goes beyond current Florida law, which requires parents to be notified before minors can have the procedure.

The Senate, traditionally viewed as the more moderate of the two legislative chambers, didn’t pass a parental-consent bill during the 2019 session, after the House readily endorsed the idea.

But the proposal is back for the 2020 session, and the House is positioned to approve its parental-consent bill after the session starts in January. And in an election year in which Republicans are eager to boost President Donald Trump’s re-election chances in critical swing-state Florida, the proposal has the endorsement of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Also, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointing three conservative justices to the Florida Supreme Court early this year, a parental-consent requirement could get a green light from the court, which previously has thwarted abortion restrictions.

People on both sides of the abortion issue are gearing up for a showdown Tuesday, as the Senate Health Policy Committee takes up the proposal.

John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the conservative group Florida Family Action, sent an email alert to supporters encouraging them to attend the meeting, noting “there is only 90 minutes allotted to this topic and we need you to come out and speak in favor.”

Stemberger also advised supporters who don’t want to speak to simply show up wearing blue.

Abortion-rights advocates, meanwhile, plan a rally and march Tuesday at the Capitol to oppose what they have dubbed the “Trojan horse” abortion bill. That description stems from comments Sen. Dennis Baxley made during an August appearance at a Christian Family Coalition event.

Baxley, a conservative Republican from Ocala, indicated that the parental-consent measure could provide an opportunity for the revamped court to take “another look at what the privacy clause means.” The Supreme Court in the past has rejected abortion restrictions based on the privacy clause in the state Constitution.

“I contend on the issue of parents taking responsibility of their children that parental consent is an easy argument for us,” Baxley told the crowd, adding the outcome of the parental consent case “could open the door for many other accomplishments that save lives.”