Florida Court Decides 16-Year-Old Is Not ‘Mature’ Enough to Have an Abortion, Must Give Birth

The teen wrote that she's "not ready to have a baby,” is broke and “still in school," and the father can't help. But the state will force her to become a mom.

Florida Court Decides 16-Year-Old Is Not ‘Mature’ Enough to Have an Abortion, Must Give Birth
Photo:CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP (Getty Images)

A parentless 16-year-old in Florida was 10-weeks pregnant and wants an abortion. A trial court in Escambia County found that the girl did not prove “by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” The judicial bypass was denied. In a collective opinion (per curiem if you took your LSATs) issued Monday, a Florida appellate court agreed.

This teenager is old enough to have sex and give birth, but she’s too young to decide that she wants to have an abortion. So she’ll be forced to carry her pregnancy to term, instead of being able to exercise her bodily autonomy. Though abortion is still legal in Florida up to 15 weeks, the girl was hung out to dry by the legal system. Judge Scott Makar describes this teenager’s heartbreaking situation in his partial dissent:

“The minor is almost seventeen years-old [sic] and parentless. She lives with a relative but has an appointed guardian. She is pursuing a GED with involvement in a program designed to assist young women who have experienced trauma in their lives by providing educational support and counseling. The minor experienced renewed trauma (the death of a friend) shortly before she decided to seek termination of her pregnancy.”

The girl completed a handwritten petition using the correct form, asserting that she’s capable of making this healthcare decision. She wrote she “is not ready to have a baby,” as she’s “still in school” without a job, and the father cannot help. Furthermore, her appointed “guardian is fine with what [she] wants to do,” according to the court filing.

Following the girl’s petition hearing, the trial judge found the pregnant girl to be “credible” and “open” and, according to the court, “non-evasive.” The trial 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.” The girl was already 10 weeks pregnant at this time. The pregnant girl’s resolve seems to be used against her.

The trial judge seemed to push their own agenda onto this 16-year-old pregnant patient. The appellate court dissent said the girl had done research and “reviewed a pamphlet” about the medical options. Still, this wasn’t enough. Per the 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.

This girl couldn’t seem to make the right decision no matter what she did, in the eyes of the judiciary-backed adults around her. She’s far from alone: When a 17-year-old girl in Florida called “Jane Doe” sought judicial bypass to have an abortion without the involvement of her parents, as state law requires, the judge presiding over her case deemed her GPA too low. The judge denied Doe the legal permission to have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge, presumably because having poor grades means a teenager should definitely be required to become a parent. An appellate court overruled his finding, but his original ruling meant delay in healthcare for yet another young person.

Forcing anyone to become a mother against their will is abhorrent, but it’s particularly difficult to understand the state sentencing teenagers to forced birth because of their “immaturity” or GPA. What are we doing, here?

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