Opinion

Why Florida’s new parental consent law for abortion is putting women’s lives at risk

Posted by
Jessica Rapana
Published
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A Florida state bill would require women under the age of 18 to obtain parental consent before getting access abortion. This latest attempt to reel back American women’s reproductive rights is not just troubling – it’s dangerous.

Women under the age of 18 in Florida will soon be required to get a parent’s permission before being allowed abortion access, following the latest political bid to wind back reproductive rights in America.

The bill – which passed through the state’s legislature last week (75-43) – is now set to be signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, who has previously expressed his support for the change, CNN reports. 

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Currently in Florida, state law requires that parents must be notified beforehand but permission need not be obtained. Soon Florida will join 26 other states in requiring at least one parent to give written permission authorising a doctor to terminate the pregnancy of a minor.

Under the new law – which would come into effect from 1 July  – physicians would need to obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing or inducing the termination of a pregnancy of a minor. Any doctor who failed to do this would face up to five years in prison for a third degree felony. There are some exceptions, including cases of medical emergency or if the minor petitions the court and obtains a judicial waiver.

During the debate over the bill, which lasted nearly four hours, many opponents argued that the new restriction could drive women towards illegal abortions. “We are codifying into law that someone else can force a girl to have a child that she does not want to have,” Democratic Representative Susan Valdes said.

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“I worry that many girls will, when deprived access to a safe termination of pregnancy, take the risks of finding an unsafe, dangerous and untested method of terminating their pregnancies.” Valdes also suggested this could include searching the internet for “mystery concoctions” to attempt to end a pregnancy. Other opponents of the bill said girls might risk being thrown out of their homes or beaten if they tell their parents they’re pregnant.

Studies show that 22% of American teens who did not tell a parent about their abortion decision feared that, if they told their parents, they would be kicked out of the house. More than 8% feared they would be physically abused by parents that had beaten them before.

As evidenced by these statistics, this bill – the latest example of the shocking regression of reproductive rights in America – is not just troubling, it is also dangerous. While many women who face unintended pregnancies have the full support of a parent or guardian – many don’t, for whatever reason, have that relationship with a parent of caregiver. In some cases, women might reasonably fear the repercussions of involving their parents in their unintended pregnancy, especially if they come from violent or emotionally abusive homes or if they are victims of incest or rape.

Women at abortion rights protest in London on the 11 May 2019
Abortion: women are increasingly being stripped of reproductive rights in America.

Further, women who fear talking to parents about abortion could be driven to either delay seeking medical care or, in more dire circumstances, resorting to dangerous or illegal self-induced abortion. Statistics show that young women have even attempted suicide rather than disclosing unintended pregnancies.

These are also some of the reasons two of America’s main health bodies – the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics – have both come out against mandatory parental involvement for women seeing abortions.

Further, the purported safety net of a judicial waiver falls short in its half-hearted attempt to protect young women, who are likely to already be overwhelmed by their situation and, as such, struggle to navigate the judicial system without a lawyer or family support.

These thinly-veiled attempts at controlling a woman’s body are not about protecting her – they are about appeasing a certain subset of the population. This new law is going to do little to reduce abortion rates, it will merely jeopardize a woman’s right to safely obtain health care.

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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