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(NEW YORK) — A Florida appeals court ruled on Monday that a 16-year-old girl was not “mature enough” to decide to terminate her pregnancy.
The decision comes after a circuit judge in northwest Florida ruled that the teen could not get an abortion without notification and consent of a parent or guardian, despite the fact the teen has been found to be “parentless.”
The teen was requesting to bypass the Florida law that requires all individuals in the state under the age of 18 to receive parental consent before obtaining an abortion. At the time of the original hearing, the teen was 10 weeks pregnant, although it is unclear how far along she was at the time of Monday’s decision.
According to the ruling, the teen, unnamed and referred to as Jane Doe 22-B, lives with a relative and has an appointed guardian.
In her initial court filing, the teen said her guardian was “fine” with her pursuing an abortion.
However, Escambia County Circuit Judge Jessica Frydrychowicz denied the bypass request, and a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the decision.
Judges Harvey Jay and Rachel Nordby concurred with the entire decision, holding that the case did not need to be returned to the circuit judge. Judge Scott Makar stood by the decision to block the bypass, but dissented against closing the case, instead asserting that the teen’s request should be returned to the circuit judge for further consideration.
According to Makar’s dissent, the teen 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 ruling said the teen had endured “renewed trauma” as her friend died shortly before she sought to obtain an abortion.
Makar continued to write that the teen said in a court petition that she was “sufficiently mature” to make a decision about an abortion and was not ready to have a baby, as she did not have a job and the father was unable to assist her.
According to the ruling, the teen came to her circuit hearing with a case worker and a guardian ad-litem child advocate manager. Makar said she had “inexplicably” chosen not to ask for representation by an attorney, which would have been free.
Makar said the trial was conducted admirably, as the trial judge “displayed concern for the minor’s predicament throughout the hearing [and] asked difficult questions of the minor on sensitive personal matters in a compassionate manner.”
However, Makar wrote that the case was a “close call” and that the teen “showed, at times, that she is stable and mature enough to make this decision.”
Makar said in the ruling that the teen had looked into abortion and had gained an understanding of her medical options and their consequences.
The ruling said the court had found that the teen “acknowledges she is not ready for the emotional, physical, or financial responsibility of raising a child” and “has valid concerns about her ability to raise a child.”
Makar, in his dissent, said he believes the trial court wanted to give the teen additional time to deal with her friend’s death before deciding to obtain an abortion, and should be able to return to court to further petition her case.
Florida law bans abortions after 15 weeks, significantly sooner than the 24-week cut off that existed in the state’s laws prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. The 15-week ban is currently being challenged in state courts.
In the state’s “Parental Notice of and Consent for Abortion Act,” physicians must get written consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor. Exceptions are made in medical emergencies or with a waiver from the parents or guardian.
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