The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent out a press release on Friday warning that Florida’s House Bill 1247, which makes it more difficult to seek a judicial bypass for the parental notification of abortion, could possibly endanger the health of young women.
The bill has already cleared the state legislature and is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature before it becomes law.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said the bill was aimed at adults “counseling minors to have abortions.” He told his colleagues that further restrictions would stop instances of young women “judge-shopping” throughout the state, comparing the process by which a minor could choose a judge for bypass to Florida’s “pill mill” problem.
Those opposed to the bill argued that it would violate a young woman’s confidentiality and would extend the waiting period for a bypass.
The ACLU of Florida said in their press release,
Within the constitutional requirement that the process be ‘confidential and expeditious,’ current law requires a judge to rule on a petition within 48 hours. HB1247 layers on delays which taken together could extend the process to up to three weeks – complicating both the legal process and any subsequent medical procedure.
The bill allows those seeking a bypass access to only the circuit court in which they reside, which many argue could be a major violation of privacy – especially for those living in small towns. (Currently, this strict provision is only law in North Dakota.)
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, explained during the bill’s debate in the Florida Senate that, “in small judicial circuits, the judge knows the parent and the kid.”
The ACLU points out that the bill also adds new language requiring judges to lecture women seeking a bypass.
“According to the bill,” the press release explains, “judges must ask questions of the applicant that determine if she ‘has the ability to assess both the immediate and long-range consequences of [her] choices.’”
Another new provision would limit the way in which judges and courts consider each possible bypass – barring judges from considering the financial implications of delivering, caring for and raising a child, should the woman choose not to terminate her pregnancy. The ACLU argues that this particular provision “ties judges’ hands” as it restricts them from considering “any inability to adequately or safely provide for a child as a reason to grant a waiver of parental notice.”
Last week, both Montana and Delaware stopped parental notification for abortions bills from becoming law in their states. Montana’s governor vetoed a parental notification bill on Friday and Delaware’s House voted down a similar bill on Thursday.
Florida’s bill still awaits the governor’s signature.