Stricter Abortion Notice Rules for Minors Advance

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Tallahassee, FL - Seeking to make a 2005 law more effective, a House panel on Monday approved a bill meant to make it harder for girls to get an abortion without their parents knowing about it.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, it would be harder for teens to falsely convince a doctor that their parents don’t want to be notified – by requiring a notarized form if their parent wants to waive the right to be notified. It also requires more steps that doctors must take to try to notify parents before performing an abortion on their minor daughter.

The bill (HB 1247) also would give courts longer to rule on whether teens should be able to bypass the notice requirement, allowing three days for a judge to decide on that instead of 48 hours.

Backers say the changes reinforce a 2004 constitutional amendment approved by 65 percent of voters requiring parental notice in most cases in which a minor is seeking an abortion.

“Voters in 2004 made it very clear that parents should be part of this process,” Stargel said.

Critics, however, say the measure is an attempt to further restrict a minor’s right to have the procedure, and could lead to a pregnant teen having to wait until the second trimester of pregnancy, making an abortion more difficult to obtain and medically riskier for the mother.

“Already minors are getting their parents or guardians involved,” said Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Florida.

Other changes would require a minor seeking to be exempted to seek approval in the judicial district in which she resides instead of being allowed to seek a judge anywhere in the appellate circuit in which the minor lives.

The bill also requires physicians unable to notify parents in person or by telephone to send both first class and certified letters to parents or guardians , while telephone notifications would be followed up by a written confirmation.

The bill now travels to the House Judiciary Committee. A similar bill (SB 1770) by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has yet to be heard in committee.

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