As states across the country continue to restrict abortion, pregnant people are the ones bearing the consequences. In the most recent incident, a parentless 16-year-old Florida resident seeking an abortion was denied one because a judge thought she was not “mature” enough. The 10-week-pregnant teen was told that she did not prove “by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” As a result, a judicial bypass was denied for her to receive an abortion, and a Florida appellate court agreed to the decision on Monday.
Though abortion is legal in Florida for up to 16 weeks, because the girl is still a minor she needed to petition her case to prove she is capable of making the decision for her own health. Under the law, minors can petition a "judicial waiver" to go around the parental consent requirement, but a court has to find them "sufficiently mature" to let them move forward with the abortion.
The girl completed a handwritten petition using the correct form, noting she “is not ready to have a baby,” as she’s “still in school” pursuing her GED without a job, and the father “is unable to assist her.” She also noted that her appointed “guardian is fine with what [she] wants to do,” according to the court filing.
But following the girl’s petition hearing, while the trial judge found the pregnant girl to be “credible” and “open,” the judge ruled that “[the minor] may be able, at a later date, to adequately articulate her request, and the Court may re-evaluate its decision at that time.”
Ultimately Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer J. Frydrychowicz seemed to want to push her own agenda. While she found the teen to have credibility and said she “showed, at times, that she is stable and mature enough to make this decision [and] acknowledges she is not ready for the emotional, physical, or financial responsibility of raising a child,” Frydrychowicz thought the teen needed more time given the experience of the trauma she had in the past to decide whether to end her pregnancy.
But given the time sensitivity related to a pregnancy, the teen did not have this time. The unidentified teen then took her case to the appellate court, which claimed the teen was not mature in their dissent:
The detailed written order points out that the minor has evaluated the pros/cons in making her decision and the transcript reflects a similar mental process. Reading between the lines, it appears that the trial court wanted to give the minor, who was under extra stress due to a friend’s death, additional time to express a keener understanding of the consequences of terminating a pregnancy. This makes some sense given that the minor, at least at one point, says she was open to having a child, but later changed her view after considering her inability to care for a child in her current station in life.
The trial court found, based on the nonadversarial presentation below, that Appellant had not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy. Having reviewed the record, we affirm the trial court’s decision.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, at least 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. However, Florida is one of the six states that require that a parent or guardian be notified of a teen's intent to get an abortion, as well as consent to the procedure.
Doctors who perform abortions on teens without parental consent are in violation of the Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act, which makes it a third-degree felony for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy of “an unemancipated minor without the required consent.”
According to Human Rights Watch, most young people “voluntarily involve a parent or another trusted adult in their abortion decision, even if the law doesn’t require it. But for those who don’t—often because they fear abuse, deterioration of family relationships, being kicked out of the home, or being forced to continue a pregnancy—laws like Florida’s pose a barrier to their care.”
Advocates noted the harmful effects such laws may have on teens facing abuse or unsafe family environments. “Many teens live in dysfunctional family environments, and parental involvement laws cannot transform these families into stable homes nor facilitate productive communications," Advocates for Youth said.
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