Florida court rules pregnant 16-year-old not ‘mature’ enough to have an abortion

Forced birth for teenagers

The Florida State Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that a pregnant 16-year-old with no parents is not “sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”

Florida law requires that a parent or legal guardian provide consent for a minor’s abortion. In the absence of consent, a minor may petition the courts for a waiver to obtain an abortion on their own. The courts must find “by clear and convincing evidence” that “the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy” by considering the following factors: the minor’s age, overall intelligence, emotional development, credibility, ability to accept responsibility, ability to assess the consequences of their actions, and ability to understand the medical risks involved in terminating a pregnancy.

The teenager brought the case to the Court of Appeal after Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz, a Rick Scott appointee, blocked her from having an abortion. She was 10 weeks pregnant at the time and told the court that she “is not ready to have a baby,” doesn’t have a job, is “still in school,” and that the father is unable to assist her.

The three-judge appeals panel, made up of two Rick Scott appointees and one Ron DeSantis appointee, mostly agreed with Frydrychowicz’s 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 under the deferential standard of appellate review set out in the governing statute…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.

Judge Scott Makar, a former Florida Solicitor General, dissented in part from the other judges, writing that the appeals court should send the case back to Frydrychowicz for the possibility of further consideration.

Based on the hearing transcript and her written order, the trial judge apparently sees this matter as a very close call, finding that the minor was “credible,” “open” with the judge, and nonevasive. Indeed, the minor “showed, at times, that she is stable and mature enough to make this decision.” The transcript demonstrates that the minor was knowledgeable about the relevant considerations in terminating her pregnancy along with other statutory factors.

As a result, a parentless teen will be forced to give birth and raise a child she does not have the means to support. She is not—in the court’s words—mature enough to terminate a pregnancy but is somehow mature enough to give birth and attempt to raise a child.

Further reading: 36 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.

Fatal fetal conditions

A Louisiana woman is being forced to carry her baby to term, or travel out of state, despite a rare congenital disorder that is fatal to the fetus.

“It’s hard knowing that I’m carrying it to bury it,” Nancy Davis, who’s 13 weeks pregnant, told local news station WAFB9.

She found out a few weeks ago during her first ultrasound that her baby has acrania, a condition where the baby’s skull fails to form in the womb. Due to Louisiana’s ban on abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger—or if the fetus has one of just a few fatal conditions—Davis does not qualify for an abortion in her home state. Acrania is not considered a qualifying condition by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Davis has less than two weeks to decide if she will travel to Florida, the nearest state, for an abortion before Florida’s 15-week abortion ban will apply to her.

Without taking a position on abortion, Davis says she thinks state lawmakers need to consider broadening the list of conditions that qualify for an abortion in the state.

“I just want them to consider special circumstances as it relates to abortion…medical problems, like this is one that needs to be in that,” said Davis.

Americans with Disabilities Act

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled for the first time yesterday that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects transgender people.

The case was brought by Kesha Williams, a transgender woman formerly incarcerated at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in Virginia. When she was initially processed by the jail, she was placed with the female population. However, once she asked the nurse about getting the hormone treatments she had been taking for 15 years, jail officials learned she was transgender and had not had genital surgery.

From then on, she was housed with men and faced regular harassment from other incarcerated individuals as well as staff:

While Williams was housed on the men’s side of the prison, prison deputies repeatedly harassed her regarding her sex and gender identity. Deputies ignored her requests that they refer to her as a woman. Instead, they referred to her as “mister,” “sir,” “he,” or “gentleman.” Williams’ requests for some accommodations — to shower privately and for body searches to be conducted by a female deputy — were denied. One deputy threatened to place her in solitary confinement if she resisted a search by a male deputy. Male inmates also harassed Williams, causing her to fear for her safety throughout her incarceration in male housing.

Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and the other defendants argued that gender dysphoria is not covered by the ADA, because it doesn’t protect “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” The majority of a three-judge panel disagreed with the county’s definition of gender dysphoria, finding that their argument reflects an outdated understanding of gender identity.

“While the older DSM pathologized the very existence of transgender people, the recent DSM-5’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria takes as a given that being transgender is not a disability and affirms that a transgender person’s medical needs are just as deserving of treatment and protection as anyone else’s,” Judge Diana Motz, a Clinton nominee, wrote.

Judge Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., a Trump appointee, dissented, writing that Williams’ argument is simply “linguistic drift [that] cannot alter the meaning of the words in the ADA when it was enacted.”

At the time, Quattlebaum wrote, “the meaning of gender identity disorders included gender dysphoria as alleged by Williams.”