A Florida appellate court ruled on Monday that a 16-year-old girl had “not established clear and convincing evidence” that she was “mature” enough to decide if she wanted an abortion. Instead, the state will force her to have a child at 16.
Florida appeals court affirms an order prohibiting a parentless 16-year-old from terminating her pregnancy on the grounds that she has not proved she is mature enough to get an abortion. So the state will force her to have a child instead. https://t.co/1UqnPUErG0 pic.twitter.com/z8uMmAoxub
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) August 16, 2022
The teen, who “is almost seventeen years-old and parentless,” lives with a relative but “has an appointed guardian,” according to the appeal decision. She had previously gone to court to seek an exemption from a law that would require consent from a parent or guardian to obtain the procedure, which was not granted. The teen informed the court that while her guardian “was fine” with her obtaining the procedure, they had never provided the required waiver.
Pleading her case, the teen argued to the court that she was not ready to become a parent. According to court documents, she was pursuing her GED “with involvement in a program designed to assist young women who have experienced trauma in their lives” and that the father of the fetus “is unable to assist her.” In the original trial, the judge found that the girl “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,” and that her concerns about raising a child are “valid.” The judge still chose to reject the petition, saying that the court found the minor “may be able, at a later date, to adequately articulate her request.”
The appellate court ruled on Monday that the girl had not sufficiently proven that she was mature enough to obtain an abortion, and upheld the requirement of approval from a guardian to obtain the abortion. The decision means that if the teen is unable to secure the waiver, she will most likely become a parent — a task that the court does not seem to recognize as requiring an immense amount of maturity.
Florida is among the six states that require health care providers to notify and seek consent from parents or legal guardians if a minor attempts to obtain abortion services. Advocates for reproductive autonomy argue that these sorts of laws can endanger the health and well being of teens and young people seeking abortions. According to the American Civil Liberties Union “61% of young women discussed the decision to have an abortion with at least one of their parents.” Those who do not consult a parent do so in order to protect themselves from things like expulsion from their home, emotional or physical abuse, or are already experiencing volatility in their home and family life.