Abortion parental consent, E-Verify among new Florida laws taking effect

By John Haughey
The Center Square
July 1, 2020

(The Center Square) – More than 100 new statutes went into effect in Florida on Wednesday, including dozens signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Among them were new laws requiring minor girls to receive parental consent before seeking an abortion and mandating some businesses use E-Verify to check workers’ immigration status.

Of the 156 bills adopted by lawmakers and signed into law by DeSantis – mostly over the past two weeks – 112 went into effect Wednesday.

They include expanding scopes of practice for pharmacists, advanced practice registered nurses and telehealth; setting strident septic tank rules and boosting environmental fines through the Clean Waterways Act; creating a 400,000-acre aquatic nature preserve; greenlighting $9.2 billion in infrastructure improvements; and eliminating statute of limitations in sexual battery cases when victims are younger than 18.

Bills to require minor girls to receive parental consent before seeking an abortion and to mandate businesses use E-Verify fostered contentious partisan debates during the legislative session but were signed into law Tuesday by DeSantis without comment.

DeSantis, during his State of the State speech in January, asked lawmakers to send him a bill that required parental consent before a minor can seek an abortion.

The Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s previous parental-consent law in 1989. Until Wednesday, state law required parents only be notified if a minor daughter plans an abortion.

The new law includes a judicial bypass that allows a girl to seek permission from a judge for an abortion if she cannot get parental consent. There also are exemptions for medical emergencies.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 404, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, in a 23-17 vote, and the House endorsed it, 75-43, after bitter partisan discourse. The House companion, House Bill 265, was filed by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.

“The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts,” Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a statement. “The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision.”

“This law will put already at-risk young people in even greater danger at the worst possible time,” Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida President and CEO Stephanie Fraim said. “What’s worse, it could open the door to a reinterpretation of our constitutional right to privacy and the right to a safe and legal abortion in Florida.”

Adopting an E-Verify law also has been a priority for DeSantis since assuming office in 2019. Last year’s effort to adopt E-Verify legislation fell short in the face of Republican resistance.

This year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 664, sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, in a 22-18 vote. The House, in a 73-45 tally, substituted it for the House bill from Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, which did not include enforcement measures. The Senate subsequently approved the amended bill, 23-17.

Lee’s bill was repeatedly amended and ultimately requires only public employers, such as local school districts, public universities and state agencies, and their private contractors, to use E-Verify.

Under the law, private employers must use the system only if contracting with a public employer or applying for taxpayer-funded incentives through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Executive Director Micah Kubic said because of the new law, “more employers will be utilizing – and more workers will be subject to – the error-prone E-Verify database that could result in hundreds of authorized workers being denied the ability to work without a meaningful avenue to seek redress.”

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