in the news this week and last is the story of a 13 year old in florida who is pregnant and wanting an abortion. in florida a minor may have an abortion without permission of a parent, but when this young woman tried to do just that, the state, as her legal guardian but with no legal standing, jumped into the picture and tried to stop her from having the abortion.
in her own defense, the young woman said to the judge "i don't think i should have the baby because i'm 13, i'm in a shelter and i can't get a job". she also was well informed about the medical risks of both carrying to term and having the abortion. in fact, she said "since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then wouldn't you all look at that fact that it'd be more dangerous for me to have the baby than to have an abortion?"
COMPLETE STORY BELOW:
Judge asked to reverse decision by state guardian
By John Coté
Posted April 30 2005
"Why can't I make my own decision?"
That was the blunt question to a judge from a pregnant 13-year-old
girl ensnared in a Palm Beach County court fight over whether she can
have an abortion.
"I don't know," Circuit Judge Ronald Alvarez replied, according to a
recording of the closed hearing obtained Friday.
"You don't know?" replied the girl, who is a ward of the state.
"Aren't you the judge?"
Against a backdrop of state and federal efforts to pass a parental
notification law for teen abortions, the exchange was typical of L.G.'s
pluck as she argued that she had the right and capability to make her
own decision, despite a move by the Department of Children & Families
to seek a judge's permission for her abortion.
"I think if I want to make the decision, it's my business and I can do
that," she told the judge.
The DCF is the teen's legal guardian after she was taken away from her
parents for abuse or neglect. State law allows minors to have abortions
without notifying their guardians. Experts say the law extends to wards
of the state, raising the question of why this girl's decision has
ended up before a judge.
DCF Secretary Luci Hadi requested a judge's ruling, according to a
department statement released Friday. DCF attorneys filed an emergency
motion Tuesday morning, the same day L.G.'s caseworker was prepared to
take her to a clinic for the abortion.
"The Department of Children and Families has the custodial
responsibility to do what is in the best interest of the child," the
Alvarez had ordered a psychological evaluation to determine L.G.'s
mental condition and whether she would be harmed by terminating the
pregnancy or giving birth.
The case is now before the 4th District Court of Appeal where it has
been fast-tracked after attorneys for the American Civil Liberties
Union filed an emergency appeal Wednesday, arguing that neither the
judge nor DCF should be involved in L.G.'s decision.
While delaying any ruling until the appeals court decides, Alvarez
held a hearing Thursday to weigh arguments.
DCF attorney Jeffrey Gillen said he was concerned L.G. was more likely
to suffer "detrimental effects" if she underwent an abortion because
she had psychiatric or behavioral problems in the past.
L.G., who told Alvarez she had run away at least five times from her
youth shelter, maintained, "It would make no sense to have the baby."
"I don't think I should have the baby because I'm 13, I'm in a shelter
and I can't get a job," the girl said as Alvarez and her guardian ad
litem, assigned to shepherd her in the legal system, questioned her.
L.G. laid out different reasons for wanting an abortion.
"DCF would take the baby anyway," she said, but later added: "If I do
have it, I'm not going to let them take it."
She also questioned the health risk of carrying the fetus to term.
"Since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then
wouldn't you all look at that fact that it'd be more dangerous for me
to have the baby than to have an abortion?" she asked. Alvarez called
that "a good point."
Dr. Ethelene Jones, an expert in obstetrics and gynecology, testified
earlier in the hearing that abortions are "definitely" safer than full
term pregnancies for girls L.G.'s age.
"At her age and at her stage of gestation ... her risk of death from
an abortion procedure is about 1 in 34,000," said Jones, who has held
positions at Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. "The risk of death in
pregnancy is about 1 in 10,000."
L.G. said her caseworker had taken her on three visits to clinics, and
risks and alternatives to abortion were discussed.
Lynn Hargrove, the court-appointed psychologist, testified L.G. had a
"mild mood disorder" but did not have "a significant psychotic or
delusional thought process" that would interfere with rational decision
J.G. is 14 weeks pregnant, witnesses testified, which would indicate
she became pregnant after she ran away from a group home in late
January and was missing for a month.
She had sex with "a boy" but refused to disclose his name to Alvarez
saying: "That's not really necessary."
The judge blasted the DCF, saying the agency never asked the court to
issue an order to take the child into custody after her most recent
"To say that I am angry at that would be an understatement," Alvarez
said. "To rush into this court on an emergency basis because this child
is pregnant and wants an abortion, I don't know where our priorities in
life are. The priority should have been to make certain that an order
to take her into custody was issued as soon as possible, and that she
was found and taken off of the streets or wherever she was. But nobody
Munoz said DCF immediately notified law enforcement in Pinellas County
when the girl ran away Jan. 29.
Munoz declined to specify what agency was notified, saying that could
compromise L.G.'s privacy rights by leading to information about where
she was living.
"As we do in all instances when a child runs away from their
placement, we immediately notify law enforcement, submit a report into
the Missing Child Tracker System, and notify other state agencies as
appropriate," the agency said in statement Friday.
John Coté can be reached at email@example.com or 561-832-6550.