Abortion notification issue: exemptions for whom?
Senate and House bills differ on when and how girls could ask judges to direct that their parents not be told.
By ALISA ULFERTS
Published April 22, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida House and Senate agree that parents should be told before underage girls get abortions.
But beyond that general principle, the two chambers are far apart.
The biggest disagreement centers on how some girls can get around the notification requirement that voters authorized in a constitutional amendment they approved in November.
The amendment directed the Legislature to provide ways to exempt girls unwilling to tell their parents they are pregnant, but the specifics were left up to lawmakers.
The Senate bill (CS-SB 1908) would allow any girl to petition a judge to waive notification. The bill would let them file the petition anywhere in the state to protect the privacy of girls in small towns. A judge would have 48 hours to rule.
The House bill (CS-HB 1659) would limit the exemption to girls 16 or 17 years old, unless they are victims of physical or sexual abuse by a family or household member. They would have to file in their home county. The judge would have seven days to rule.
In both bills, suspected child and sexual abuse would be reported to authorities. Both bills waive the notification requirement for medical emergencies and for married girls or girls emancipated from their parents.
House Democrats suggested during questioning that the bill would overburden judges and invade the privacy of pregnant girls.
House sponsor Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, pointed out that the court files would be confidential. He jokingly suggested that several bills seeking to restrict some lawsuits would unburden judges to deal with abortion cases.
The Senate bill says either the doctor who performs the abortion or a referring physician must notify parents 48 hours beforehand or face discipline by the state medical board.
The House bill says the doctor performing the abortion must notify the parents. Failure to do so would constitute malpractice.
The Senate and House bills would both take effect July 1. That might not be enough time for the court system to write rules for judges, said Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallendale Beach.
"I think you struck as good a middle ground as you could," Geller told Senate sponsor Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. "I don't know how the courts could write these rules by July 1. If there are no rules there is no judicial bypass."
Dockery said Gov. Jeb Bush plans to sign the legislation as soon as it passes, plenty of time for the courts to write rules.
"If it gives you any comfort, I will call the governor right away and encourage him to sign it right away," Dockery said.
[Last modified April 22, 2005, 00:43:11]
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