Abortion Parental Notice Case Divides Appeals Court

April 16, 2014

The girl was 17 years old, a good student, headed toward college — and pregnant.

But her attempt to get an abortion without her parents finding out led to an appeals court issuing sharply divided opinions last week about how a key part of the state’s parental-notification law should be applied.

Florida voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that requires parents to be notified before their minor daughters can have abortions. But that amendment and subsequent laws created a process for minors to go to court to prevent the notification.

The process, known as a judicial bypass or waiver, was at the crux of the case involving a teen, identified in court documents as Jane Doe 13-A, seeking to have an abortion without her parents being told. A Leon County circuit judge ruled against the girl’s request, but a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed that ruling in a 2-1 decision.

Appeals-court Judge T. Kent Wetherell, in an opinion released Friday, wrote that the girl was a high-school senior who earned A and B grades in advanced classes and had been accepted to colleges. He wrote that she feared she would be kicked out of the house by her deeply religious parents if they found out she was pregnant and planned to have an abortion.

“(As) a practical matter, the denial of a judicial waiver in this case would leave appellant (the minor) with two options: carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or notify her parents of her intent to have an abortion,” wrote Wetherell, who was part of a majority with Judge L. Clayton Roberts. “It is clear from appellant’s testimony that either of these options would irreparably harm the parent-child relationship and would disrupt, if not destroy, appellant’s plans for her future. On the other hand, if the petition is granted, the parent-child relationship may not be harmed at all because appellant’s parents may never find out about the pregnancy or the abortion and appellant will be able to attend college and make a better life for herself than she likely would have had otherwise.”

But appeals-court Judge Scott Makar wrote a 33-page dissent that said the appeals court should give deference to the lower-court ruling that would have led to the girl’s parents being notified. He also indicated that the case was the first time an appeals court had fully explored changes that lawmakers approved in 2011 to the judicial bypass law. Those changes included new legal standards that gave greater deference to the decisions made by circuit judges.

“The purpose of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act is to safeguard the constitutional rights of parents in the care and upbringing of their children by requiring their notification — not consent — before an abortion can be performed on their daughter while concurrently providing exceptions where the minor is clearly and conclusively shown to be sufficiently mature or that parental notification would not be in her best interest,” Makar wrote. “It is a balance of interests, but one presumptively struck in favor of parental notification.”

The issue of parental notification had long been controversial before voters approved the 2004 constitutional amendment. In most cases, courts rule in favor of minors who seek to use the judicial-bypass process. A footnote in Makar’s dissent said that 95 percent or more of minors’ petitions were approved from 2006 to 2011 and that the rate fell to 89 percent in 2012, after the legislative changes.

Though Friday’s opinions do not fully explain the chain of events in the case of Jane Doe 13-A, it appears that they were issued about five months after the case went to court.

Makar’s dissent said the girl sought the judicial waiver Nov. 5 and that a circuit judge ruled against her three days later. The next week, the girl filed an appeal, and a three-judge “emergency panel” was assigned to the case. By law, the panel had to make a decision within seven days.

While the opinions do not detail what happened after that point, the case caused sharp disagreements that went beyond the three-judge panel. Other documents released Friday show that a proposal for the full, 15-member appeals court to hear the broader issues in the case was defeated in a 9-6 vote.

“At stake here is not the minor child Doe’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy,” wrote Judge Ronald Swanson, who wanted the full court to consider the issues. “All would undoubtedly agree the abortion most probably has taken place and Doe was able to make that choice without requirement that her parents be informed of the decision. At this point, what is at stake is one of the foundational principles of judicial restraint: that an appellate court will not substitute its view of the facts for that of the trial court when the trial court enjoys the vantage point of observing the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses.”

But in the case of Jane Doe 13-A, Wetherell and Roberts took issue with the conclusions reached by the circuit court, such as whether the girl was mature enough to make the abortion decision. Wetherell wrote that appeals courts are not required to “rubber-stamp” the lower court decisions.”

by Jim Saunders,  The News Service of Florida


12 Responses to “Abortion Parental Notice Case Divides Appeals Court”

  1. David Huie Green on April 19th, 2014 12:06 pm

    molino jim,
    Aren’t we already paying for millions of such children and their mothers?

    David for birth control

  2. molino jim on April 18th, 2014 9:19 am

    @RealityCheck–Good reply. @ProudArmy– How many times has the old line been used “If anything happens we’ll get married”. If the girl calls to share “the good news” that’s the last time she hears from the male. The female gets burned and the male can tell his buddies what he pulled off. More often than not the comments are “she should have known better”–”you know how some of her kind act”, “that’ll teach her”. I ask once more— how many of the people making the judgement calls are willing to help pay for the food and all the rest for the child.

  3. ProudArmyParent on April 17th, 2014 9:48 am

    molino jim on April 16th, 2014 10:24 am ,”I find it hard to understand why so many people are ready to make a decision on this for someone else,”

    Because it is murder, doesn’t matter how you look at it! There was NO trial, yet this human was put to death! Worse part is the child didn’t do anything wrong, it is only the sin of the parents that the abortion will hide!

  4. RealityCheck on April 16th, 2014 2:38 pm

    @Mark, well, so far this puts her and you in the same boat, with the exception of having some of your life’s details in a local news article. Do you care to share any of your sins on here? You know, only the ones that God can judge? Because, so far you and her are no different in God’s eyes. Remember, where there is promiscuous women, there will also be promiscuous men.

  5. Bill Whitaker on April 16th, 2014 12:28 pm

    A life is “A Life”. Whether 20,50, 90, years old or even a 6 month old fetus, or a 1 week old “unborn infant”. IF it breathes, has blood flowing, accepts nourishment, moves, FEELS ???, Might it not be HUMAN and ALIVE? Wouldn’t that then be A LIFE? Taking that life away from its’ rightful “being” would then, by every definition known to mankind, be some form of murder! Well, based on the REASONING??? of “Appeals-court Judge T. Kent Wetherell,” in an opinion released Friday, wrote that the girl was a ‘high-school senior who earned A and B grades in advanced classes and had been accepted to colleges’. He wrote that “she feared she would be kicked out of the house by her deeply religious parents if they found out she was pregnant and planned to have an abortion”. Based on this “JURISTS” OPINION, this minor, who was very SMART, A’s & B’s, Advanced Classes, and Accepted to Colleges, is QUALIFIED to decide to take away the LIFE of this being inside of her, ‘That she, BEING SO SMART, helped create’ by not using her “attributes” to help her decide to have safe sex by using products that are ‘available’ at Truck Stops, Gas Stations, Drug Stores, Bars and Diners all over America. Instead, SHE elected, to protect her ‘rights’ to have Mom and Dad provide her with Food and Shelter and College Tuitions, Gas money? Meals at school?, etc. so this little MISTAKE” would not disrupt, if not destroy, appellant’s plans for her future!!!! SO SHE, with the APPROVAL of ‘ “Judge T. Kent Wetherell’” TOOK the LIFE of this tiny little being, because this little creation of GOD, would possibly cause it’s mother some inadvertent issues!!! Welcome to the NEW AMERICAN GROUND RULES for “Liberal Lifestyles”!!!

  6. molino jim on April 16th, 2014 11:50 am

    @ alarmed and armed— please share where you found this information as to the five weeks and so on. I have read some countries are allowing kids (5 yoa and older) who are in great pain and are terminably ill to choose if they wish to die. This take a number of doctors signing off on the decision.

  7. Dont judge too quickly. on April 16th, 2014 11:16 am

    Before you judge and call someone a murderer for an abortion. What would you do if raped against your will? Too afraid to go to someone for help and then to learn you were pregnant? I am not saying this article is giving this example but bad things happen to good people. Let me tell you from experience that fear is overwhelming. And then to be financially and physically responsible for something against your will is a heavy heavy burden. Some of us make a choice for what is best for us at the time.

    on the other hand. Promiscuous women who do not know how to keep their legs closed like a lady and feel this option is their cheapest way out and have already had 1, 2 or 3… yes, close the door on them..

    but before you judge someone make sure you understand their story before you lay such anger and call them murder. Some are just victims of someone else’s rage.

  8. concerned on April 16th, 2014 10:47 am

    If my daughter came to me and told me she were pregnant, I would explain to her what her options were, but the choice of what to do would be a decision she would have to live with for the rest of HER life. It would NOT be my decision to make for her. If she felt she could not come to me, then I have failed as a mother. If she was able to go to a clinic without my consent to have an abortion and later had complications and had to go the emergency room, as a minor, a parent or guardian has to give consent for medical treatment. The only exception is unless her life was at risk, then of course medical personnel would do what they needed to do to save her life. I think this country does a child (under 18 you are still a CHILD) a disservice by allowing them to make this type of decision without a trusting adults counsel. I’m sorry, but the adults that work in planned parenthood cannot be trusted. They have one sided opinions. They are FOR abortion. I am prochoice, but an educated choice is never a good choice to make.

  9. Mama on April 16th, 2014 10:27 am

    I don’t understand why it’s such a hard decision! My 17 year old needs my permission to get her ears pierced but not to abort her baby!

  10. molino jim on April 16th, 2014 10:24 am

    I have a friend who’s daughter was in the same situation. She was over 18 and made what was a very hard chose for her– she had an abortion. She has gone on with her life and has a family now. I find it hard to understand why so many people are ready to make a decision on this for someone else — but are not willing to help support the child or mother. They are against birth control pills, morning after pills and all other birth control methods. I did see in the paper a couple of weeks ago where one state will now have car tags that have “choose” on them. Until till you or a family member have been in this situation please don’t judge.

  11. Alarmed and Armed on April 16th, 2014 8:14 am

    Stopping the process of life whether inside or outside the mother. Snuffing out a miracle before he/she comes out of the womb is still murder. Whether someone is given a cocktail of medication outside or inside the womb, its still death. The ending of something that has already begun. The life has started and to kill it is just atrocious.

    The sad part is lawmakers are considering extending “legal abortion” up to 5 weeks AFTER child birth! What is our world coming to. Where is the value of life we always cherished? Where do we draw the line? What’s next? Aborting toddlers because the mother doesn’t want the child anymore?

    Imagine this “I don’t want my teenager anymore so I aborted her last week in my backyard. I just couldn’t afford her anymore.”

  12. Mark on April 16th, 2014 5:48 am

    She may hide her acts from her parents however, she can not hide her crime of murder from God. May He have mercy on her.

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