Aug 16, 2022 - Health

Florida court blocks teen from getting abortion, must continue pregnancy

Picture of abortion rights protesters in Florida
Photo: John Parra/Getty Images for MoveOn

A Florida appellate court on Monday blocked a 16-year-old teenager from getting an abortion, saying that she is not "sufficiently mature" to choose to end her pregnancy.

Driving the news: The teenager, who court documents say is "parentless," had sought court approval to bypass a Florida law that requires that a minor get parental consent in order to get an abortion.

  • The teen said in her petition to bypass parental consent that she was "not ready to have a baby," she does not have a job, she is "still in school" and the father is unable to assist her. Additionally, she argued that her legal guardian "is fine" with her decision to get an abortion.

Context: Under the law, a health provider cannot provide an abortion to a minor unless they receive written consent from a parent or a legal guardian. Exceptions exist if the health provider believes there is a "medical emergency."

  • A minor can petition a "judicial waiver" to go around the parental consent requirement. A court has to find them "sufficiently mature" to let them move forward with the abortion.

Details: A lower Florida court had ruled that the teenager, who is unidentified, was not mature enough to decide to get an abortion. The teen then filed an appeal, and the appellate court upheld the previous decision.

  • "The trial court found, based on the nonadversarial 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.

The big picture: At least 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

  • Florida is one of the six states that require that a parent or guardian be notified of a teen's intent to get an abortion, as well as that they consent to the procedure.

Zoom out: Abortion rights advocates say that parental consent abortion laws can put a teenager's health and safety at risk.

  • The American Civil Liberties Union says that requiring a teenager to get consent could "exacerbate an already volatile or dysfunctional family situation."
  • While most minors do consult with their parents before getting an abortion, "many teens live in dysfunctional family environments, and parental involvement laws cannot transform these families into stable homes nor facilitate productive communications," according to Advocates for Youth.
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