On August 21, 2020, state Senator Lauren Book (D—Plantation) authored a Tampa Bay Times op-ed, which was disingenuously entitled, “Forcing children to have children.” As executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, I submitted a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times in response; however, thus far, the paper has refused to publish my letter.
In her editorial, Senator Book takes issue with Florida’s new parental-consent-prior-to-an-abortion law because a Hillsborough County Circuit Court judge recently denied a 14-year-old girl’s request to obtain an abortion without parental consent.
Under Florida’s new law, which went into effect on July 1st, if a minor wishes to pursue an abortion without a parent’s or legal guardian’s consent, she may petition the circuit court in which she resides. In the case cited above, and per the new statute, the minor, “Jane Doe,” did so – and was given a court-appointed attorney, which is a key fact that Senator Book leaves out of her op-ed.
The circuit court held a hearing, in which Jane Doe was repeatedly unable to meet her burden of convincing the judge by “clear and convincing evidence” that she was either “sufficiently mature” to forgo the parental consent requirement or that it would be in her “best interest” to do so. After the denial of the petition, Jane Doe’s counsel moved for reconsideration. The circuit court held an additional hearing at which Jane Doe presented a woman who claimed to be her mother. However, the circuit court determined that it could not confirm the true identity of the woman in question, given that “she initially gave a different name than that of Doe’s mother and needed to be corrected by Doe.”
Under the statute, Jane Doe, through her court-appointed attorney, availed herself of her right to further appeal – again, another fact that Senator Book fails to disclose.
In its unanimous August 17, 2020 opinion, a three-judge panel of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal upheld the circuit court decision. The appellate judges found that Jane Doe’s “answers to the questioning of counsel and the trial court were vague, and our review of her testimony supports the trial court’s finding that she was unable to articulate her understanding of the procedure, the medical risks involved, and the long- and short-term consequences of her decision.” The appellate judges also upheld the circuit court judge’s determination that Doe’s contradictory testimony about her parents’ whereabouts was not credible.
Senator Book laments that Florida’s new parental-consent-prior-to-an-abortion law is a “thinly-veiled attempt to undermine the constitutionally protected rights of women under the Roe v. Wade decision and the right for American women to have control over their own bodies, choices, and lives.” However, Senator Book’s histrionic statement misses the mark. In the case above, Jane Doe is not a woman – she’s a 14-year-old girl.
Senator Book’s op-ed was misleading by omitting key facts involving Jane Doe’s case – a case that exemplifies exactly why parents need to be involved in the life-altering decisions of their minor children. Here, 14-year-old Jane Doe was clearly trying to avoid involving her parents – without adequate justification. Far from being cruel, the courts rightly denied a judicial waiver in this case and have given Doe’s parents an opportunity to save their unborn grandchild’s life and save Doe from a lifetime of pain and regret. And, yes, that’s exactly the dual purpose of Florida’s new law.
Andrew Shirvell is Executive Director for Florida Voice for the Unborn