Why is a girl too young to have an abortion, old enough to be a parent?

Self-contradicting conservative rationalization is playing out in Florida courts, where a circuit judge, then a state appeals court, ruled a pregnant 16-year-old is not “sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” (See NBC News story here.)

Florida law requires minors to get the consent of a parent or guardian for an abortion. The girl is described as “parentless,” but has a guardian who the girl said is “fine” with the abortion, but apparently didn’t consent in writing. Forbes said (here), “It’s unclear why she sought the court’s permission instead of her guardian’s,” i.e., what’s called a “judicial bypass” of parental consent, which Florida law allows.

The girl’s handwritten petition said she’s “not ready to have a baby,” doesn’t have a job, is still in school, and her father “is unable to assist her.” The appellate ruling was close, 2-1, and the dissenting judge wrote, “The trial judge apparently sees this matter as a very close call, finding that the minor was ‘credible,’ ‘open’ with the judge, and nonevasive,” according to NBC News. He wanted to send the girl’s petition back to the circuit judge for “further consideration.”

Forbes notes that before the Supreme Court allowed states to ban abortions, 36 states had parental consent laws, of which 35 (including Florida) provided a “judicial bypass” for cases where a minor couldn’t get parental permission, which allows judges to override parental objections based on the individual facts of the case. (An example that comes to mind is incest, where a father or stepfather impregnates a minor girl, then refuses to sign an abortion consent.)

A Democratic state legislator criticized the courts’ rulings, saying, “Instead of trusting and listening to her, the state forces her to give birth.” Left unsaid by the circuit and appeals court judges, that legislator, the U.S. Supreme Court, and legislatures in general, is this question:

If an underage girl is too immature to decide to have an abortion, than isn’t she also too immature to parent a child? And isn’t there a hypocrisy lurking somewhere in this result?

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