On Monday, a Florida appellate court affirmed an order prohibiting a “parentless” 16-year-old from getting an abortion on the grounds that she is not mature enough “to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” Instead, the state will force her to have a child.
The teenager petitioned the court to bypass a Florida law that requires a minor to get parental consent before undergoing an abortion. In a letter to the court, she wrote that she was “not ready to have a baby” because she doesn’t have a job, is still attending high school, and doesn’t have a reliable partner.
According to the law, a health care provider cannot legally administer an abortion to a minor without written consent from a parent or legal guardian, although some exceptions have been made in the case of a “medical emergency.” A minor can petition a “judicial waiver” to circumvent the parental consent requirement, but the court must find them “sufficiently mature” to allow them to move forward with the procedure.
In the initial ruling, a lower Florida court ruled that the unidentified teenageer was not ready to make the decision to terminate her pregnancy. When she filed an appeal, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision.
"The trial court found, based on the non adversarial presentation below, that Appellant had not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy. Having reviewed the record, we affirm the trial court’s decision," the appellate court wrote.
At least 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, the Guttmacher Institute reported. Florida is one of six states that requires a parent or guardian to both be notified of a teen's intent to get an abortion and to consent to the procedure.
Many abortion rights advocates argue that parental consent abortion laws can put a teenager’s health and safety at risk and could “exacerbate an already volatile or dysfunctional family situation," according to the American Civil Liberties Union.Based on a national survey of more than 1,500 unmarried minors having abortions in states without parental involvement laws, 61% of young women discussed the decision to have an abortion with at least one of their parents. But that number does not take into account the percentage of teens living in unhealthy family environments. “Parental involvement laws cannot transform these families into stable homes nor facilitate productive communications," says Advocates for Youth