A Florida appeals court decided Monday to uphold a lower court’s ruling that a pregnant 16-year-old had not shown she was “mature” enough to terminate her unwanted pregnancy, and must therefore give birth.
The teen, described as “parentless” in court documents, has been petitioning the state court system to let her get an abortion without the written consent of a parent or guardian, which is required for minors under a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) two years ago.
She argued before Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz that she was not ready to be a parent and did not have a job. She was living with a relative while she worked toward earning her GED.
But Frydrychowicz found that the teen did not establish “by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy,” court documents say. Florida’s First District Court of Appeals upheld the decision, with two judges on the panel concurring and one issuing a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
In Florida, abortion is only permitted until the 15-week mark. (The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the law, but at the moment it remains in effect.) The teen was 10 weeks pregnant when she first came before the court with her case worker and a guardian ad litem.
The teen explained to Frydrychowicz how she had researched abortion procedures, saying that she understood her medical options and had weighed the pros and cons of having an abortion.
Judge Scott Makar, the appellate court panelist who dissented in part, wrote that he believed Frydrychowicz did not think the teen had put enough consideration into the matter, because she was under heightened stress due to the recent death of a friend.
His dissent stemmed from his opinion that the case should have been sent back to the trial judge to sort out some loose ends, and he appeared to encourage the teen to go back and make her case again.
But she may be able to get an abortion another way. As Makar noted, the teen initially told the court that her legal guardian “was fine” with the decision to terminate her pregnancy. Under Florida law, Makar pointed out, she does not need to go through the judicial bypass process at all if her guardian fills out a form affirming their consent to the abortion.
Oddly, the issue of the teen’s guardian was “raised indirectly” but “not addressed” by the court, Makar said.
He also noted that the teen “inexplicably checked the box indicating that she did not request an attorney, which is available by law for free under the statute,” suggesting the process might have gone differently from the start if not for a check mark on a form.