FLORIDA USA – Parental consent or judicial bypass required for under-18s to get an abortion in Florida

All but 13 US states have parental involvement laws for abortion for those under 18.

On 1 July 2020, a harmful new abortion restriction went into effect in the state of Florida. Florida law had required a parent to be notified if a young person under 18 years of age was trying to get an abortion. Since 1 July, the state requires those under 18 to get consent from a parent or legal guardian before having an abortion.

Most young people under 18 voluntarily involve a parent or another trusted adult in their abortion decision, even if the law does not require it. But for those who don’t – often because they fear abuse, deterioration of family relationships, being kicked out of the home, or being forced to continue the pregnancy – laws like this pose a major barrier to care.

A protest was held at the state capitol on 22 January 2020, when the bill was tabled. Florida reproductive justice advocates have opposed the new requirement, arguing that lawmakers should trust young people to make decisions that are best for their health and lives. 

In a statement published in the journal Pediatrics in February 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence reaffirmed the organisation’s position that the rights of adolescents to confidential care when considering abortion should be protected.

It opens: “Adolescents should be encouraged to involve their parents and other trusted adults in decisions regarding pregnancy termination, and most do so voluntarily. The majority of states require that minors have parental consent for an abortion. However, legislation mandating parental involvement does not achieve the intended benefit of promoting family communication, and it increases the risk of harm to the adolescent by delaying access to appropriate medical care. This statement presents a summary of pertinent current information related to the benefits and risks of legislation requiring mandatory parental involvement in an adolescent’s decision to obtain an abortion.”

Young people still have options without involving a parent. Florida’s law allows them to choose judicial bypass, in which they show a judge they are mature enough to make an abortion decision without their parents and/or that involving their parents is not in their best interests. They will have a court-appointed attorney and won’t have to pay any legal fees. But how long will this process delay their abortion?

PowerU hosted a tweetstorm on 1 July to ensure young people knew what this law means for them. They said: #MyVoiceMyChoice Is our declaration that we aren’t just magically people when we turn 18. We are people now and we want our access to abortion!

SOURCES: Pediatrics, February 2017;139(2):e20163861 ; Human Rights Watch, by Margaret Wurth, 1 July 2020 + PHOTO: Opponents of Florida’s “parental consent” bill gather for a press conference at the Capitol in Tallahasee, January 22, 2020 ©2020 AP Photo/Aileen Perilla ; if when how on judicial bypass in all states, as at 7 July 2020 ; Floridians for Reproductive Freedom, Judicial bypass in Florida, 7 July 2020