Reproductive rights are under attack yet again in the Florida Legislature.  Legislators have filed several bills this session that block access to women’s healthcare and chip away at our constitutional right to determine for ourselves whether and when to have a child.

This morning, the Senate Health Policy Committee passed SB 1774, a bill that would force minors to give birth against their will. Let’s be clear: Medical decisions should be made by patients and their doctors, not politicians. SB 1774  mandates that every young woman under the age of 18, in addition to notifying their parents, also obtain parental consent in order to seek a safe and legal termination of her pregnancy. Current law already requires minors to notify their parents.  This law goes much further -- it puts veto power in the hands of parents who, unfortunately,  may have a history of abuse and often do not have the best interests of their minor child in mind. Moreover, under this bill, a minor deemed too immature to make decisions about her pregnancy, is considered mature enough to have a child.  The companion House bill, HB 1335, has already passed two committees in the House as well, and is schedule for its third and final committee tomorrow (Tuesday, April 9). See below for more about these and other dangerous bills that force women to give birth against their will.

And here’s a novel idea for our elected officials -- if you want to decrease abortions, instead of infringing on our constitutional rights and preventing access to safe and legal reproductive health care, how about creating societal structures that would positively impact a woman’s decision to have a child (like free child care; access to low- or no-cost health care; paid parental leave; paying parents who stay home with children an annual salary for their work raising their children and foregoing work outside the home)?  While we are at it, the most effective way to decrease abortions, at absolutely no cost to taxpayers, is to stop sexual assault and sexual coercion. Governments, institutions, laws, and policies contribute to the systematic devaluation of the lives and safety of women and girls every day by failing to respond to gender-based violence and discriminating against those subjected to such violence.

MANDATING PARENTAL CONSENT
 
SB 1774, filed by State Senator Stargel, Lakeland, and its House companion bill, HB 1335, filed by Representative Grall - would require minors to obtain the consent of their parents or guardians before having abortions, unless absolved from doing so by the courts. The bill, as mentioned above, would be more restrictive than current Florida law, which already requires minors to notify parents or guardians before having abortions.

This bill is unconstitutional, unwise, and unpopular with Floridians. The Florida Supreme Court in 1989 struck down a similar parental-consent law, finding that it violated state constitutional privacy rights.

Leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have opposed these laws.
 
SIX-WEEK ABORTION BAN
 
HB 235, sponsored by State Representative Hill, Pensacola, would make it a felony to perform an abortion on a pregnant woman after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. This can be as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy—two weeks after a first missed period—and well before many women even realize that they are pregnant. An identical bill, SB 792, has been filed by Senator Baxley, Ocala. These bills are blatantly unconstitutional.
 
Supporters of these bills have a clear motivation: they want to eliminate all abortion in Florida and try to bring a case to the U.S. Supreme Court to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.

The effort to adopt a fetal heartbeat bill in Florida follows similar actions in other states. (See chart below.) To date, these laws have been challenged in each state and courts have struck down such laws as unconstitutional attempts to deprive women of their reproductive rights.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held for over 40 years that states may not ban abortion prior to viability.  The Court has also made clear that states are prohibited from drawing a line at a particular gestational age to establish fetal viability and that the determination of viability must be left to the physician’s judgment in each individual case.

By imposing criminal penalties against doctors, this bill threatens doctors who exercise their best medical judgment.

Leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have opposed these laws.
 
20-WEEK ABORTION BAN
 
A third bill before the legislature - SB 558, sponsored by Senator Gruters of Sarasota - would ban abortion in Florida after 20 weeks of gestation, and similarly violates the U.S. Supreme Court viability standard. In addition, the 20-week standard again usurps the duty of a physician to use her or his judgment to make a determination in each individual case.

Every pregnant woman faces her own unique circumstances, challenges, and potential complications. It is not always possible for a woman to get an abortion without overcoming obstacles and delays. Many things can stand in her way, such as not knowing she is pregnant, needing time to gather funds to cover the cost of care and travel, a lack of doctors who provide abortion nearby, and a host of other barriers put in place by politicians. All too often, politically motivated obstacles and restrictions on access to abortion force women to get abortions later and later in pregnancy.

Additionally, women with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, and high blood pressure may face dangerous complications at or past 20 weeks that can put their health in serious jeopardy. Similarly, some women may develop conditions during their pregnancies that seriously threaten their health, such as preeclampsia and placental abruption.

Only one percent of women have abortions after 20 weeks, and these can involve rare, severe fetal anomalies (most fetal anomalies are only detectable at 20 weeks) and serious risks to a woman’s health.

In these situations, it is crucial for a woman to have unfettered access to all of her options based on her unique circumstances in consultation with her medical provider and the people she trusts and confides in.

Additionally Senator Gruters bill fails to contain exceptions for victims of rape and incest who—for one of many understandable reasons—often may not have filed a police report. It also contains no exceptions for when a woman learns that there are serious anomalies in the fetus. This ban will especially burden poor women who must come up with funds for both the procedure and travel costs.

Again, the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose 20-week abortion bans.
 
SIX-WEEK ABORTIONS BANS STRUCK DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

IOWA

Last year Iowa’s governor signed a bill into law that bans abortion pre-viability. A state judge recently ruled the law is unconstitutional.

NORTH DAKOTA

In 2013, a six-week abortion ban was signed into law. A federal district court blocked the law and found it unconstitutional based on protections under Roe v. Wade. The case was appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the bill was also blocked. Shortly after, another attempt to appeal the circuit court decision was made to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.

OHIO

In December of 2018, Gov. John Kasich vetoed a six-week abortion ban that was introduced and passed by the state legislature. Gov. Kasich stated that the bill undermines the U.S. Supreme Court’s current rulings on abortion and cited the cost burden a lawsuit would pose to Ohio’s taxpayers.

ARKANSAS

A 12-week abortion ban went into effect in 2013, was challenged in federal court, and later found unconstitutional. The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case in 2016.

ARIZONA

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down 20-week bans in Idaho and Arizona as unconstitutional. Arizona appealed this decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the law remains permanently enjoined. The U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent decision on abortion rights, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, reaffirmed that abortion is a constitutionally-protected right subject to heightened judicial scrutiny.

Stay informed

ACLU of Florida is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National