TALLAHASSEE, FL (Orlando Sentinel from ProLifeInfo.org) - In a major victory for pro-life advocates, a Florida
appeals court Friday unanimously upheld a state law requiring that parents
or a judge be notified before a minor gets an abortion.
Reversing a lower court, the First District Court of Appeal ruled that the
1999 law serves a "compelling state interest" by helping parents and
guardians assist their daughters with an often traumatic medical decision.
A circuit judge last year threw out the law, saying it violated the
Florida Constitution's right-to-privacy provision.
Pro-life advocates hailed Friday's ruling, although the battle over the
law looks certain to shift to the Florida Supreme Court.
"In one word -- hallelujah," said Terry Kemple, executive director of the
Orlando-based Christian Coalition of Florida. "It's been decided by
Florida society that a minor girl can't get her ears pierced without
parental consent, and she can't get an aspirin at school without parents'
consent. This just applies the same common sense."
Pro-abortion organizations said they were hopeful the ruling would be
overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, which first extended the privacy
provision to abortion with a landmark 1989 ruling.
In a case brought by a Lake County girl known only as "T.W.," justices
that year declared unconstitutional a law demanding parental consent for
minors seeking abortions. The author of that pivotal 4-3 decision, Justice
Leander Shaw, is the senior member of the Florida Supreme Court. Since
1989, five key pro-life laws have been blocked by Florida courts, with the
state's constitutional right to privacy cited each time.
In its ruling Friday, the appellate court's three-judge panel acknowledged
the parental-notice law interferes with the constitutional "right to be
let alone" and free from government intrusion. But the panel also ruled
that a "compelling state interest exists" when an unmarried minor seeks an
"We think it's an unfortunate ruling," said Bebe Anderson, lead counsel
and an attorney with the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Law and
Policy in New York.
The law requires abortion practitioners to notify one of the parents or a
legal guardian if anyone younger than 18 seeks an abortion. The notice
would have to be made at least 48 hours before the abortion, either in
person, by phone or by certified mail. Teenagers looking to avoid such
notice could seek a court order from a judge. For abortion practitioners,
failing to provide notice could result in civil fines and penalties,
including loss of license.
Abortion advocates said they hope to keep the law from being enforced
while it is being appealed.
The measure was sponsored by Sen. Charles Bronson, R-Satellite Beach, and
Rep. Sandra Murman, R-Tampa. Neither could be reached for comment late
The law was challenged by abortion facilities and pro-abortion groups that
felt confident it would be overturned by the state's high court. "We have
been fortunate in Florida," said Charli Summers, executive director of
Florida Planned Parenthood. "Our Legislature keeps passing restrictive
laws, and the governor signs them. The only thing that keeps us from being
thrown back into the Stone Age is the courts."
But Ken Sukhia, the lawyer who argued the case for the state Department of
Health, said the court showed wisdom in its decision. "This is a victory
for every mother and father in the state whose right to be involved in
some respect in such a profound decision has been upheld," Sukhia said.
Pro-life Governor Jeb Bush, who signed the notice bill into law, praised the
opinion, written by Judge Robert T. Benton II and backed by Judges Charles
Miner and Edwin Browning. "It seems only reasonable that a parent be
informed when their child is undergoing a major surgical procedure," Bush
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 ruled that states may require notification
of at least one parent or a judge when a girl younger than 18 seeks an
abortion. With its notice law, Florida at the time became the 40th state
to adopt laws requiring minors to obtain parental permission or notice
before having an abortion.
Indeed, just days before Florida's governor signed the law, his brother,
President Bush, then Texas governor, signed a similar bill. The Texas
parental-notice measure went into effect. But just as in Florida, three
other states with constitutional privacy provisions have struck down
In throwing out Florida's law last year, Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis
ruled the measure was "exactly the kind of government interference into
personal, intimate decisions that the privacy clause protects against."
But Orange County Commissioner Bob Sindler, who sponsored a similar bill
as a state legislator, said parental notice is needed. "In any medical
procedure, the parents should be notified. And this is a serious medical
procedure," Sindler said. "It's really a protection of the minor."