May 02, 2005

Child 1: Judge 0

While the case of the 13 year old Floridian's struggle against DCF efforts to block the abortion she wants has received plenty of attention, and sparked some insightful discussion around the web, this article from the Sun Sentinel shows the hypocrisy of the argument that this young woman is not informed, intelligent or mature enough to understand the consequences of her actions (emphasis mine):

"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?" "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 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."
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 making.
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."

This child has more poise than many women twice her age would have in front of a judge, but somehow is portrayed as not knowing her own mind and not able to make a decision about her reproductive life. She has been repeatedly counseled about the "dangers" of abortion as required by law (and it seems beyond, at three visits), but still maintains her belief. Is her sin being resistant? Or that she refuses to accept her punishment for being a "fallen woman"? Clearly this young woman has had a difficult life, however she also seems to have substantial insight into the realities facing "unwanted" children, and the potential life ahead of her child with DCF. And speaking of DCF, if the agency demonstrated its complete incompetence in protecting this child in the past (read down to the part about where she was in custody of DCF but ran away five times) how on earth can they be trusted with making this most intimate decision for her now?

Posted by binky at May 2, 2005 02:44 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


i think Florida needs to change it's motto from "The Sunshine State" to "Great Granddaddy (the Evangelical Republican) Knows Best."


Posted by: joshua at May 2, 2005 03:32 PM | PERMALINK


``Legally speaking, it's not a difficult decision to make,'' Alvarez said in court Monday. ``Morally speaking, it's a very difficult decision for this court to make. ... But I'm not here to make the moral decision. I'm here to make the legal decisions.''

Posted by: binky at May 3, 2005 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

there's a novel observation. chalk another one up for judicial restraint, not that we'll be seeing alvarez's face on any campaign literature.

Posted by: joshua at May 3, 2005 01:29 PM | PERMALINK

Great work! I cited this post (and linked to it) in my weekly column, The Blog Box, at today.

Posted by: Delilah Boyd at May 6, 2005 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think that if they knew the girl had a violent history, they should have watched her better. I think it's their fault that she got pregnant, but it was also her choice. What she doesn't have the right to do is to decide whether or not she can brutally end someone else's life.

Posted by: Brandi at May 12, 2005 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as there is no "someone else" yet, and her ability to make her own reproductive decisions is supported by Florida and United States law, in fact, she does have the right.

Posted by: binky at May 13, 2005 10:12 PM | PERMALINK
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