Judicial

Appeals court declines to give pregnant teen a waiver from Florida’s requirement for parental notification and consent 

By Dave Andrusko

A three judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals in Florida has upheld a decision by a  state circuit judge that rejected a pregnant teen’s petition to abort. The panel said there was no need to remand the ruling back to Escambia Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Frydrychowicz. “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,” they wrote in the main decision.

Florida law requires “physicians to notify and obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on the minor,” according to CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi. “Under the law, a minor is allowed to petition a circuit court to waive these requirements.”

The girl, who is almost 17, was ten weeks pregnant when she petitioned the Florida circuit court. It is not clear how far along the minor is now. She was described as “parentless” and living with a relative.

HB 5 –“Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act” –protects unborn children from abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (almost four months) except for severe fetal anomaly or to save the mother’s life or prevent a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition. The bill is modeled on the Mississippi law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade.

“The trial court found, based on the non-adversarial presentation below, that appellant (the teen) had not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy,” the appeals court ruling said. “Having reviewed the record, we affirm the trial court’s decision under the deferential standard of appellate review set out (in the consent law).”

CNN’s Stracqualursi explained, “Florida is one of six states that require both parental notification and consent for minors to get an abortion, according to the reproductive rights think tank Guttmacher Institute.” 

Under state law, the court needs to consider factors such as the minor’s age, “overall intelligence,” “credibility and demeanor as a witness,” ability to assess the consequences, and whether they understand the medical risks.

“Florida voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that cleared the way for the Legislature to pass a law requiring that parents or guardians be notified before minors have abortions,” Stracqualursi reported. “Lawmakers in 2020 added to that with the consent requirement.”

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