Florida appellate court refuses to grant teenager permission to secure an abortion

By: - August 16, 2022 4:35 pm

Credit: Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

A state appellate court has refused to allow a 16-year-old pregnant girl who was 10 weeks pregnant to obtain an abortion without the permission of her parents or guardian.

The 3-1 ruling affirms a decision by Escambia County Circuit Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz, who decided that the girl, identified in the ruling as “Jane Doe 22-B,” had not established “by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy” under the judicial bypass option in Florida’s abortion parental consent law.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an attorney who’s hinging her campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor on her support for abortion rights, issued a written statement calling the ruling “judicial overreach at its very worst.”

“Florida’s parental notification laws for abortion are deeply flawed and when I’m governor, the law will finally be on the side of women,” Fried added.

The terse, unsigned majority opinion released on Monday says there was no indication that Frydrychowicz had abused her discretion in denying an abortion. Judges Harvey Jay III and Rachel Nordby voted for the outcome.

Judge Scott Makar wanted to send the case back to Frydrychowicz for further scrutiny. Makar noted that Frydrychowicz had declared the case “a very close” call in that the girl “showed, at times, that she is stable and mature enough to make this decision.”

“The trial judge denied the petition but explicitly left open the availability of further proceedings by saying that the ‘court finds [the minor] may be able, at a later date, to adequately articulate her request, and the court may re-evaluate its decision at that time,’” Makar wrote, quoting Frydrychowicz.

“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,” Makar added.

She’ll have to hurry though: Under a new state law approved this year, abortions are banned after 15 weeks’ gestation except to protect the mother’s health, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

According to Makar’s partial dissent, the girl is “parentless” and lives with a relative, although she has been appointed a guardian. She is seeking a GED through a program that assists traumatized teens. The document didn’t explain the nature of the trauma but noted that the friend’s death added to her travails.

Additionally, the girl told the trial judge that her guardian “was fine” with the procedure. She did not request an attorney, although she was entitled to one free of charge. Her case worker and a guardian ad litem accompanied her to the hearing.

“If the minor’s guardian consents to the minor’s termination of her pregnancy, all that is required is a written waiver from the guardian,” Makar wrote. “Such a written waiver would be self-executing, meaning that the minor need not invoke the judicial bypass procedure at all.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.