In the latest reproductive legislation in the US, a new Florida requires people under the age of 18 to get parental permission before having an abortion. Last week, legislature passed in a largely party-line vote of 75-43. Now, Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law, but the ramifications for the new bill are still up for debate.
Across the country, legislation around abortion has created storied obstacles for specific populations — teens included. According to a Tiller Fund Report, restrictions like parental consent laws in Florida, which means that people under the age of 18 must get their parents’ explicit consent in order to get an abortion, create abortion barriers, which are already more difficult to obtain for minors than for adults.
Currently, 26 other states have parental consent laws around abortion. The young people in those states who need abortions are often endangered because of them, with studies showing that approximately 22% of teens who chose not to tell a parent about their abortion did so out of fear that they would be ousted from their homes. According to the same study by Henshaw and Kost, more than 8% of young people under 18 feared physical abuse if they revealed the need for an abortion or that they had one already.
The bill does include a provision that lets young people in need of abortions consult with a judge and ask for a waiver in specific cases that involve abuse or incest, or even in specific parental circumstances that might cause harm. But, the proposal adds another barrier to accessing safe abortion for young people under 18 state-wide.
Those who opposed the bill during the debate to pass it argued that asking minors to get parental consent or negotiate with the legal system when they may already be experiencing fear or shame will only spike the number of people who seek illegal and dangerous methods of abortion. A report by the New York Civil Liberties Union attests to this, saying that "parental involvement laws can lead minors (who typically seek abortion care a week later on average than do older women) to further delay seeking care, increasing the risk of complications."
Republican Erin Grall, who sponsored the bill, says the reason for the legislation is that people under 18 who are carrying children are also essentially children themselves. “By including parents in this decision we empower the family. It is the critical backbone of our civilized society,” says Grall. Over the course of the four-hour debate, Republican representatives drew comparisons between teenagers getting abortions to existing parental consent required for field trips and R-rated movies.
Meanwhile, Democrat Susan Valdes argued that the bill, while seemingly well-intentioned and meant to protect young people, codifies into law that “someone else can force a girl to have a child she does not want to have.” To that end, she argued that she worries that will force young people to take the risk of finding unsafe methods of terminating pregnancies.
According to a report from Child Trends in 2008, abortion rates among teens between the ages of 15 to 19 declined by 56% between 1990 and 2008, with rates steadily declining since the 1980’s. Currently, the House has majority voted for the bill's expansion, which is part of an existing law around abortion in the state. DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law very soon.