A Florida court of appeals will force an orphaned 16-year-old girl to give birth because the teen is not “sufficiently mature” to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.
A circuit court judge has previously rejected the girl’s request to waive a state law that requires minors to obtain parental consent for an abortion. On Monday, a three-member jury confirmed the decision.
The unnamed teen will receive a GED through a program for young people who have experienced traumatic events in their lives, according to the appeal ruling. In her petition, the girl — who lives with a relative and has an appointed guardian — claimed she is “still in school” and “not ready to have a baby”, noting that her guardian “allowed me to what [she] want to do.”
She met with Judge Jennifer J. Frydrychowicz of the Escambia County Circuit Court, along with an attorney and child attorney, but “inexplicably” did not ask for an attorney to represent her for free, the ruling said. .
“The trial judge expressed concern about the minor’s predicament during the hearing; she sympathetically asked difficult questions of the minor about sensitive personal matters,” it continued. “The examining magistrate’s tone and method of questioning were commendable and her ability to quickly draft a thoughtful written warrant is admirable (she prepared her written warrant immediately after the hearing and then handed a copy to the minor).”
Frydrychowicz saw the case “as a close call,” the ruling says, describing the teen’s impression the judge gave the teen as “credible” and “open,” and that she “showed at times that she is stable and mature enough to this decision.”
It says the girl was 10 weeks pregnant at the time, but doesn’t give a specific timeline that would indicate how far along she would be now. She was “knowledgeable” about what was involved in the termination of a pregnancy, and had done Google searches and read a pamphlet given to her at a medical clinic, the ruling said. It also says the teen “recognizes that she is not ready for the emotional, physical, or financial responsibility of raising a child,” and “has well-founded concerns about her ability to raise a child.”
Still, Frydrychowicz chose to dismiss the petition, though she did not rule out reconsidering whether the teen “would be able to adequately formulate her request at a later date,” according to a partial dissent from Judge Scott Makar.
“If you read between the lines, it seems that the court wanted to give the minor, who was under additional pressure from the death of a friend, extra time to show more understanding of the consequences of terminating a pregnancy.” wrote Makar. “This makes sense, as the minor, at least at one point, said she was open to having a child, but later changed her mind after considering she was unable to care for a child. in her current position in life.”
However, Judges Harvey Jay and Rachel Nordby wrote in the lead decision that the court found that the teen “had not established with clear and convincing evidence that she was of sufficient maturity to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”
The Florida statute “allows pre-trial detention in court with instructions for further ruling, but such remand is not warranted here,” the appeal judges said. “The court’s order and findings are not unclear or lacking, so a pre-trial detention would be necessary for us to conduct our assessment under the law.”
The case was subject to the Parental Notice and Consent to Abortion Act of 2020, making it a third-degree offense for a physician to terminate a pregnancy of “an unemancipated minor without the required consent.”
“Thanks to Ron DeSantis, Florida is now forcing a teenager to give birth against her will,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Travis Reuther said in an emailed statement. “That’s a horrible and dangerous oversight for the governor, who claims to represent the ‘free state of Florida’ but wants to make decisions for them about women’s health care. DeSantis has been refusing to answer basic questions about abortion restrictions for months, but his extreme bans are already severely affecting women in Florida.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the majority of youth “voluntarily involve a parent or other trusted adult in their abortion decision, even if not required by law. But for those who don’t — often out of fear of abuse, deterioration of family relationships, eviction, or being forced to continue a pregnancy — laws like Florida’s are a barrier to their care.”