An appeals court in Florida upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a 16-year-request old’s for an abortion on the grounds that she is too young to make such a decision. The minor, who went by the name Jane Doe 22-B, petitioned the lower court to disregard the state law that needed parental or guardian consent in order to obtain an abortion in a handwritten petition.
CNN reports that before conducting an abortion on a child, doctors must notify and seek written agreement from the minor’s parent or legal guardian in Florida, which currently forbids most abortions at 15 weeks. A minor may ask a circuit court to waive these restrictions under the statute.
In court filings, the adolescent, who was characterized as “nearly 17 years old and parentless,” “had submitted a handwritten petition seeking a waiver of the state’s parental notification and consent procedures,” The Washington Post said. According to Florida law, a juvenile cannot typically have an abortion without their parent’s or guardian’s permission.
According to court documents, she requested permission to terminate her pregnancy at 10 weeks pregnant. According to Florida law, the minor must be “clearly and convincingly shown to be sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy” before a court may grant a parental permission waiver.
CNN reports that, in accordance with state law, the court must take into account things like the minor’s age, “overall IQ,” “credibility and manner as a witness,” “capacity to weigh the consequences,” and “if they understand the medical dangers.” The petition was dismissed by Escambia County Circuit Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz in what one judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, Scott Makar, said seemed to be “a very close decision,” according to The Washington Post.
When the appeals court confirmed Frydrychowicz’s decision, Makar partly dissented. The panel, which also included judges Harvey Jay and Rachel Nordby in addition to Makar, maintained the judgment of the lower court, stating that the conclusions “are not confusing nor deficient” in a way that would necessitate the court’s reconsideration.
The girl “had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy,” according to Frydrychowicz’s writing. The judge appeared to leave room for reconsideration when she issued her decision, saying that she “may be able, at a later moment, to appropriately clarify her desire.”
“Reading between the lines,” Makar wrote, “it appears that the trial court sought to give the minor, who was under additional stress because a friend had passed away, further time to demonstrate a keener knowledge of the ramifications of terminating a pregnancy.” He said that he would have had the matter sent back to the lower court. According to NPR, a similar situation with a different resolution occurred in Florida in January.
“This past January, a circuit court judge in another region of Florida denied another woman’s plea for this kind of relief, in part due to concerns regarding her GPA,” the judge said. In the end, a higher court found in her favor, but not before the case brought to light in front of a very large audience the degree of discretion that judges have in making decisions of this nature and the difficulties in negotiating parental consent regulations in general.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 36 states have legislation mandating parental notification and/or consent for abortions, which mandate that the parents of minors be notified or provide their assent. Three of those demand the approval of both parents. Only notification is necessary for ten of those states. While 14 states allow minors to get abortions
“in circumstances of abuse, assault, incest, or neglect,” 33 states allow minors to get abortions in medical emergencies. Additionally, 35 states have a procedure that enables a court, rather than a parent, to grant approval. However, some legal experts predict that these rules will change in some states as a result of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to STAT News, juveniles aged 17 or younger account for around 4% of all abortions performed in the United States, and according to NPR, “those under the age of 20 make up 12% of individuals who have abortions, indicating at least 50,000 adolescents seek abortion care each year.”