Florida Abortion Debate Focused on Parental Notification Law

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Pro-life activists are rushing to support Florida's parental notification law, which is being challenged in the state Supreme Court.

"We believe parents ought to be involved in any decision that has as far reaching a magnitude as an abortion," said Matthew D. Staver, founder and president of the Liberty Counsel. The national civil liberties defense organization has filed an amicus brief in support of Florida's Parental Notice of Abortion Act.

But the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP), fighting to have the law stricken, says it supports the rights of young people to obtain confidential reproductive health care and age-appropriate sexuality education.

The Liberty Counsel filed its brief on behalf of several medical and religious organizations, according to Staver. "If parents must consent to a minor receiving an aspirin at public school, then they should be notified when their minor daughter considers an abortion," Staver said.

"Abortion is a life-changing experience, not only for the minor daughter, but also certainly for the unborn child, and parents clearly have a right to know," he added.

The 1999 law requires physicians to notify the parents or guardian of any girl under age 18 seeking an abortion at least 48 hours prior to performing the abortion.

Florida's First District Court of Appeal ruled in February of 2001 that the law was constitutional, but also accepted a motion by abortion rights advocates to keep the law from taking effect until the state Supreme Court could rule on the case.

The Florida Supreme Court decided in November it would hear an appeal from the CRLP. Oral arguments are scheduled for March; a ruling is expected in the spring or possibly summer.

In 1989, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a parental consent law passed in 1988 was unconstitutional under the state right to privacy. But that case differs from the current debate because the new law requires only parental notification rather than consent.

Supporters of the Florida Parental Notice of Abortion Act say such a law will reduce the number of abortions. They cite Texas as an example, where a similar law passed in 1999. In the year before the Texas Parental Notification Act was implemented, 4,721 abortions were performed on minors in Texas, the Liberty Counsel said, citing figures released by Texas state officials. The year after passage of the law, the number of abortions performed on minors fell to 3,830.

"Parental involvement laws are on the books in over two-thirds of the states and there is no case which has established these laws have led to parental abuse or to self-inflicted injury," Staver said.

Parental involvement improves the quality of medical care received by minors responding to unplanned pregnancies, reduces teen pregnancies and enhances family unity, Staver said.

The CLRP said it opposes laws requiring "young women to obtain the consent of or notify one or both parents in order to obtain an abortion." Such laws, according to the group, "force young women who are unable to comply with these requirements to delay obtaining appropriate medical care."

"Resulting delays can be much longer if young women seek to receive court approval for an abortion or travel out of state for an abortion, rather than meet parental involvement requirements," according to the statement.

CRLP also filed a case in federal court this week challenging the constitutionality of Florida's "Choose Life" license plate.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order to block the further distribution of more than $600,000 collected from sales of the plates. The plan "turns the Florida government into a fundraiser for the anti-choice movement," attorney Brigitte Amiri is quoted as saying in a Jan. 15 CRLP press release.