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Florida's Abortion Law Change and Parental Consent – NBC 6 South Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., warned parents about a state abortion amendment that would expand legal access to abortion and repeal a six-week abortion ban that took effect May 1.

In Naples, hours before President Joe Biden spoke about abortion in Tampa on April 23, DeSantis said told a crowd that Biden came to Florida to support a constitutional amendment “that abolishes parental consent for minors and that is intentionally worded to deceive voters.”

The governor reiterated that warning on April 30, calling it “an amendment they wanted to put in the Florida Constitution that would eliminate parental consent for minors.”

“Why would you revoke parental consent?” he asked.

The picture of how the change might affect parental consent is complex. To become effective, the ballot measure requires 60% approval. And if passed, the amendment itself states that it “does not alter the Constitutional authority of the Legislature to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor obtains an abortion.”

But DeSantis' warning is based on a prediction about what could happen through legal challenges to the parental consent law.

The amendment states: “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before it is possible or when necessary to protect the health of the patient.” Legal experts say that language could prompt advocates to do so Challenging a 2020 state law that requires written parental consent before a minor has an abortion.

But abolishing consent law is not a given – it would likely be decided by the courts.

Another twist: Legal experts told us that the April 1 parental consent requirement in Florida has been unconstitutional for decades.

For this reason, DeSantis’ statement requires further explanation.

What the amendment says about parental consent and notification

The summary for Amendment 4 reads in full:

“No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before it is viable or when necessary to protect the health of the patient, as determined by the patient's health care provider. “This change does not change the legislature’s constitutional authority to require prior notice to a parent or guardian of a minor having an abortion.”

DeSantis and others argue the language would eliminate the law requiring minors to obtain parental consent before having an abortion. Minors can also seek permission from a judge to have an abortion without parental involvement.

However, legal experts told PolitiFact that the change does not mean an immediate end to parental consent for abortions in Florida.

“It's possible that an individual or group could sue to overturn the (parental consent) law, but the case would be heard in state court and ultimately the Florida Supreme Court would decide the issue,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist Professor at the University of Central Florida.

Given the court's conservative leanings, Jewett said it's possible it would uphold existing Florida law even if the constitutional amendment were approved. Judges might find that parents have traditionally had a legal right to have a say in decisions about their children's health care, he said, and therefore still have a say here.

The amendment also states that it “does not override the constitutional authority of the Legislature to require notice to a parent or legal guardian before a minor obtains an abortion.” This refers to Article X, Section 22 of the Florida Constitution , which requires parental notification before a minor seeks an abortion.

Bryan Griffin, a DeSantis spokesman, told PolitiFact in an email that parental notification is not the same as consent. He pointed to DeSantis' April 17 press conference, in which DeSantis said the “notification is after the fact.” Consent is obviously a condition precedent.” However, the wording of the initiative and current Florida law specify that parents be notified before an abortion, not after.

“Minors do not have the same constitutional rights as adults, and the Florida Constitution recognizes this in the context of abortion in its provision that specifically allows the legislature to require parental notification,” said Quinn Yeargain, an assistant professor and expert on abortion Law at Widener University State Constitutional Law.

“While Section 22 refers only to notice and not consent, it nevertheless clearly demonstrates the Constitution's desire to restrict the right to abortion for minors,” Yeargain said.

The state's 2020 consent law only became enforceable on April 1, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that constitutional privacy protections do not apply to abortions.

A 1989 Florida Supreme Court case invalidated a previous parental consent law for minors seeking abortion on the grounds that it violated Florida's constitutional right to privacy. Although DeSantis believes the initiative could eventually eliminate the consent requirement, as of April, Floridians had lived without it for more than 30 years.

“We do not know whether parental consent will later be interpreted as a delay or ban on abortion under the amendment, but we do know that the parental consent requirement has been viewed as unconstitutional since 1989,” said Louis Virelli, a Professor of Law at Stetson University.

Anna Harden

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