Teen Denied Abortion Access Over 'Lack of Intelligence' Scores Court Win

Fla. appeals court disputes claim over 2.0 GPA, allows her to bypass parental consent
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2022 8:44 AM CST
It's a Win for Teen Denied Abortion Access Over Her GPA
A judge holds a gavel in this stock photo.   (Getty Images/Pattanaphong Khuankaew)

A high school junior in Florida has won a judicial bypass to a state law requiring minors to get parental consent before speaking to a doctor about abortion procedures, after an initial denial citing her apparent "lack of intelligence." The 17-year-old told a court that she was interested in an abortion—a decision supported by her boyfriend and his mother—because she was not financially stable but was sure her parents would force her to carry the pregnancy to term if they were aware, per the Independent. Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Jared Smith initially noted the teen had a 2.0 GPA despite claiming to have "B" grades, per WTVT. This "evinces either a lack of intelligence or credibility, either of which weigh against a finding of maturity pursuant to the statute," he wrote.

However, in a 2-1 ruling in the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, issued Jan. 18, Judges Darryl Casanueva and Susan Rothstein-Youakim noted the teen's GPA might not reflect her latest marks. In the majority decision, Casanueva added there was no reason to believe the teen's overall intelligence was "less than average" given that a "C" average "demonstrates average intelligence for a high school student." He also disputed Smith's finding that the teen "has never had any financial responsibilities, even so much as paying her own cellphone bills." Casanueva wrote that the teen works more than 20 hours a week, sometimes at multiple jobs, has $1,600 in savings, and two credit cards, and pays almost all of her expenses apart from her cellphone bill, per the Independent.

Her "testimony demonstrates that she possesses an ability to assess the consequences of her choice and the risk it entails," Casanueva wrote. Judge John Stargel—the husband of state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the bill requiring that a minor get parental consent before obtaining abortion information and who has introduced a more recent bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exception for cases of rape or incest—dissented, saying misspellings and grammatical errors in the teen's petition implied that she was not "sufficiently mature" to make a decision about abortion without the guidance of her parents, per the (Lakeland) Ledger. (Read more abortion stories.)

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