OPINION: New Florida legislation restricts abortion access to young citizens
On July 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring parental consent prior to an abortion being administered to a minor. Florida’s newest restrictions on abortion limits access for minors, striking controversy for those who are strong believers in a woman’s choice to have an abortion.
Before the bill was passed, Florida law only required parents to be notified before the administration of an abortion to a minor. Now, doctors must receive parental consent before performing an abortion on individuals under 18. According to the new bill, young females who would like to receive an abortion without their parents’ permission would need to receive a judicial waiver, replacing parental consent with government consent.
Furthering restrictions on abortions for minors is happening throughout the U.S. Florida is the sixth state to enact a parental consent law, following Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Virginia and Utah.
Abortion is a fairly common choice for young women after they find out they’re pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, as of 2018, women between the ages of 15 and 19 make up 10 percent of all abortions.
Regardless of the commonality of underage abortions, many teens decide to leave their guardians in the dark for various reasons.
A study published in 2014 by the American Journal of Public Health, a scientific journal for peer-reviewed research, analyzed the willingness for minors to involve their parents in their abortions. This information was collected from a clinic in Illinois, which at the time did not require parental notification. Of the 30 participants, 21 involved their parents, but the involvement was closely tied to the quality of the parent and child communication.
The study also found that those who decided not to include their guardians in their decision were afraid of ruining their parental relationships.
Not only could news of a teenage pregnancy be damaging to a parent-child relationship, but this limiting law may also increase domestic abuse toward the young woman.
During the case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Supreme Court recognized that “mere notification of pregnancy is frequently a flashpoint for battering and violence within the family. The number of battering incidents is high during the pregnancy and often the worst abuse can be associated with pregnancy.”
Despite required parental consent possibly endangering the lives of young females, supporters of the bill believe it will put the decision in the hands of mature and responsible adults.
Sen. Gayle Harrell, a proponent of the new legislation, said during the debate that a 13-year-old cannot be trusted to make the decision to have an abortion, making the argument that they “can’t even decide what they are going to wear tomorrow.”
The problem is not the teenager’s inability to make decisions, but rather it seems to be a lack of communication between parent and child. Since parents are now legally required to give consent for an abortion, the discussion of their daughter’s pregnancy is now more obligatory than ever.
A progressive solution to making teens more comfortable speaking to their parents about pregnancy would be to take away the forced nature of the conversation. In this way, teens would not be afraid of being shamed or abused for their actions.
In 2017, there were 10,709 babies born to Floridian teens between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
These numbers have the potential to decrease if the state government would take the initiative to strengthen the sexual education system.
Integrating comprehensive sex education and preventing abstinence from being the focal point of the conversation has shown to decrease underage pregnancies. This can be done by reestablishing sex education curriculum to further instruct on contraceptives and STI prevention.
A 2019 article published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy, a public forum for peer-reviewed research, observed that “comprehensive sex education has been shown to reduce teen pregnancy compared to abstinence-only education or no sex education.”
By promoting safe sex and removing shame from the educational aspect of reproductive health, teen pregnancy and abortions can decrease.
A 2016 study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that between 2007 and 2012, teen pregnancy decreased, not due to a decline in sexual activity, but because of an increase in contraceptive education.
The solution is to educate the youth on reproductive health earlier and more sufficiently. Instead of lobbying to have this new legislation abolished, those against it should lobby for better sex education.