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  1. Opinion

No child should be forced to have a child | Column

Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion, writes senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.
In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. [ROBERT COHEN  |  AP]
In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. [ROBERT COHEN | AP]
Published Nov. 18, 2019
Updated Nov. 19, 2019
Kara Gross [ACLU of Florida]

If you think it’s unconscionable for politicians to force children to have children, you should oppose the following bills being debated in the Legislature — Senate Bill 404 and House Bill 265, filed by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and state Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.

These innocuously titled “Parental Consent Bills” will decrease the likelihood that minors who are pregnant will confide in their parents and result in minors using unsafe methods to end their pregnancies.

Under these bills, if a parent refuses to allow a minor to end their pregnancy, and the minor isn’t able to go to court or convince a judge to waive the consent requirement, the minor will be forced to have a child. No law should force a child to have a child against their will. There is no greater governmental intrusion.

Don’t be fooled by claims that these bills are about parental involvement. Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion. Since 2005, Florida Statutes explicitly require parents be notified of a minor’s intent to end their pregnancy. Thus for the past fifteen years, Florida law has ensured that parents shall have knowledge of a minor’s pregnancy and thus can be as involved as they choose.

Unfortunately, not all children in Florida have nurturing parents. Last year alone, according to the Department of Children and Families, there were over 130,000 state investigations of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and over 20,000 kids are in Florida’s foster care system and their legal guardian is the State. This bill would allow abusive parents and the State of Florida to force already abused children to have children.

Moreover, an unintended consequence of this bill is that minors who would otherwise reach out to their parents for support, will be less likely to seek parental involvement out of fear their parents will refuse to allow them to end their pregnancy. Instead, the minor may seek to end the pregnancy on their own – without the assistance of parents or medical professionals.

Politicians have previously tried – and failed – to mandate parental consent. In 1988, the Legislature passed a parental consent statute. The Florida Supreme Court, recognizing the Florida Constitution’s robust privacy rights, struck down the parental consent requirement as unconstitutional. Our legislators should not be wasting taxpayer dollars by attempting to pass bills that have already been struck down as unconstitutional.

The reality is that this bill won’t prevent abortions, it will prevent safe and legal abortions--ultimately endangering our youth. For these reasons, so-called “parental consent laws” are consistently opposed by leading healthcare professional organizations.

Regardless of your views on whether an adult should be able to end a pregnancy, we should all be able to agree that laws that force children to have children against their will are not in any child’s best interest.

Kara Gross is the legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.

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