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Florida appeals court says 16-year-old girl is not 'sufficiently mature' to obtain abortion

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Thomas Simonetti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Florida appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that a "parentless" teen girl is not "sufficiently mature" to obtain an abortion.

The minor, a 16-year-old girl identified as Jane Doe 22-B, sought a waiver to bypass Florida law requiring parental notice of and consent for an abortion procedure. She told the lower court she "is not ready to have a baby" because she is "still in school" and the father is unable to assist her. The girl is pursuing a GED and living with a relative. She told the court her legal guardian is "fine" with her decision to seek an abortion, according to court documents.

The girl also said she made the decision to seek an abortion after the traumatic death of a friend.

However, Escambia County Circuit Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz denied the girl's request, and a three-judge panel on Florida's First District Court of Appeala upheld that decision.

Though Frydrychowicz found that the minor "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," she ruled that the girl, who is about 10 weeks pregnant, had failed to adequately articulate her request. The judge left open the possibility that the court may re-evaluate its decision "at a later date," when the girl is more prepared to make her case.

“Reading between the lines, it appears that the trial court wanted to give the minor, who was under extra stress due to a friend’s death, additional time to express a keener understanding of the consequences of terminating a pregnancy," Judge Scott Makar wrote in the appellate court order, concurring with the decision in part and dissenting in part. "This makes some sense given that the minor, at least at one point, says she was open to having a child, but later changed her view after considering her inability to care for a child in her current station in life."

Makar said he would have remanded the case back to the lower court to "re-evaluate its decision."

But the majority of the three-judge panel said a remand was not warranted. "The trial court’s order and findings are neither unclear nor lacking such that a remand would be necessary for us to perform our review under the statute," Judges Harvey Jay and Rachel Nordby wrote.

Florida law since 2004 has required that parents or legal guardians be notified before minors obtain abortions. The law was amended in 2020 to also require parental or legal guardian consent before pregnant girls abort their children.

The law contains exceptions for medical emergencies or cases where a minor seeks a waiver from the parental consent requirement. Waivers may be granted in cases, for example, where there is a legitimate fear of abuse if parents or legal guardians find their child got pregnant.

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