A 16-year-old girl in Florida has been denied an abortion by an appeals court because the court does not feel she is “sufficiently mature” enough to make a decision about having an abortion. Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer J. Frydrychowicz had previously denied the girl’s request to waive the law that requires parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. A three-judge panel (Judges Harvy Jay, Rachel Nordby, and Scottt Maker) has upheld that decision, with Maker partially dissenting.
The girl, known only as Jane Doe 22-B, has no parents and said the father of the baby would not be supporting her in raising the child. She is living with a relative and has a guardian, whom she said is in support of the abortion. The girl is also working towards her GED through a program for teens who have experienced traumatic events and said she “is not ready to have a baby.”
The teenager met with Frydrychowicz, a case worker, and a child advocate, but did not take advantage of the free attorney that would have represented her. She is believed to have been about 10 weeks pregnant at the time of the court’s decision, but the current age of her preborn child is unknown. Florida protects preborn babies from abortion after 15 weeks.
The response to the court’s ruling was swift and negative, pro-abortion attorney Harry Nelson claiming the decision would “have terrible ramifications for the young woman, for the baby that will be born because of this, and for society.” He said, “It’s almost like a form of servitude to block a young girl from an abortion.” He also said it was “delusional” to “require children to have children.”
The teenager is known to have suffered trauma, including the recent death of a friend. Having an abortion has proven to be traumatic for women and carries the risk of emotional and psychological harm including depression, anxiety, drug use, alcohol use, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. The risk is greater for women like this Jane Doe, who have already reported psychological distress prior to the abortion.
Abortion advocates may believe that a child is better off dead than being raised by a teen mother, but it is discriminatory to claim that the child of a teen mother will be bad “for society,” as Nelson argues. Rather than help lift the teen out of her situation and give her the best chance possible at success, Nelson wants to add to her life the trauma of having killed her child because he thinks her child will be a detriment to society.
In addition, it is not “a form of servitutde” to carry and give birth to one own’s child. This girl knew she was having sex at a young age with a partner who was not committed to her while she was in school and unprepared for a baby. The court did not force her to become pregnant; it simply ruled she is not in an emotionally mature state of mind to make the decision to end her child’s life.
And finally, pro-lifers agree that children should not be having children. The point is, however, that children should not be having sex, and this girl is not yet an adult. A child should also not be expected to carry the enormous emotional weight of an abortion.
Rather than direct the teen toward abortion, she should be directed to the resources that are available to help her confidently welcome her baby. The state of Florida offers benefits for single mothers including temporary cash assistance, food assistance, Medicaid, a student assistance grant to undergraduate students seeking a degree who demonstrate “exceptional” financial need and meet other eligibility criteria, and a resident access grant for students as well.
In addition, there are pregnancy centers in the county of Escambia that provide a variety of services including free ultrasounds, parenting classes, material items such as diapers, car seats, and clothing. They can also connect her to resources such as housing and child care.
Women and girls deserve to be introduced to the resources and support that exist through life-affirming organizations and government programs.
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited since original publication.
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