A panel of Florida judges ruled Monday that a parentless 16-year-old failed to prove she’s mature enough to get an abortion—leaving her to give birth and, potentially, raise a child instead.
The anonymous 16-year-old, who lives with a relative, is currently pursuing her GED and dealing with the recent death of a friend, according to court papers detailing the judges’ ruling. A trial judge decided that she was “credible” and “open,” and acknowledged that “she is not ready for the emotional, physical, or financial responsibility of raising a child.”
Still, that judge rejected her request to end her pregnancy anyway. The Monday ruling, from three judges from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals, affirmed that rejection. Although one judge wanted to send the case back to the trial judge for review, two others said that wasn’t necessary.
The 16-year-old, the judges wrote, “had not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”
Before the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this summer, 38 states required that minors involve their parents in their decision to get abortions. Most of those states also set up a process known as a “judicial bypass,” a court proceeding where judges review whether to let minors get abortions without their parents’ permission or knowledge.
But judges’ determinations, and their criteria for making them, can often seem arbitrary or even nonsensical. Earlier this year, a Florida circuit judge ruled that a 17-year-old shouldn’t get an abortion because, in part, her GPA was too low and she didn’t care for any younger siblings. But an appeals court overturned that ruling, pointing out that the 17-year-old didn’t have any younger siblings.
In a review of 40 judicial bypass cases—which tend to remain sealed, unless appeals courts are asked to weigh in—Mother Jones found one 2006 Florida case where a minor said she couldn’t financially or emotionally handle raising a child. The judge then used that claim to prove that she wasn’t ready for an abortion.
Now that Roe has been overturned, abortion remains legal in Florida up until 15 weeks of pregnancy. At the time of her meeting with the trial judge, the 16-year-old was 10 weeks into her pregnancy.
There is a chance that she could, however, evade the judicial bypass process entirely, as one judge said in the Monday ruling. In her petition for an abortion, the 16-year-old wrote that her guardian “was fine” with her decision to terminate her pregnancy. If the guardian signs a waiver, the 16-year-old could get her abortion anyway.
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