by Maria Vitale Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
May 1, 2005
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — A Florida judge who blocked an abortion for a 13-year-old living in a state shelter criticized the Department of Children and Families after finding out the girl had run away at least five times and was gone for a month when she became pregnant.
Juvenile Judge Ronald Alverez said, “To say I am angry is an understatement."
The girl reportedly learned she was pregnant two weeks ago. She had planned to have an abortion Tuesday, but DCF asked Alvarez to block the abortion. DCF cited a state law that says the agency cannot consent to any abortion.
Alvarez granted the request, but the case is now under appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports legal abortion. The 4th District Court of Appeal is expected to issue a decision soon.
Alvarez held a hearing Thursday to determine if the abortion might physically or emotionally harm the girl. The judge said in court that the state should have done more to help her.
“Where are our priorities in life?" he asked.
The Florida Supreme Court struck down a law in 2003 which required parents to be notified if their minor daughters seek an abortion.
The current case pits civil liberties groups against Gov. Jeb Bush and conservative groups just weeks after the intense legal battle over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman who was starved to death at her husband’s request.
The 13-year-old, identified in court papers as L.G., has been in foster care since she was taken from her parents for abuse or neglect. DCF attorney Jeffrey Gillen told the court the state has been unable to find adoptive parents for her.
Psychologist Lynn Hargrove, who was asked to evaluate L.G., said the girl does not have any mental health problems but may have a mild mood disorder which could affect her thinking.
“She was frustrated at the delay," Hargrove said.
The state’s sole witness, child psychologist Francis Crosby, was called to testify about post-abortion syndrome, a disorder which many women experience after the trauma of their abortions.
Meanwhile, the judge refused DCF’s request to admit evaluations which show that the girl has a history of psychological and behavioral problems, ruling the material outdated.
L.G. told the judge she does not want a baby. She said she cannot get a job to support the child because of her age.
A spokesman for Governor Bush, Jacob DiPietre, called the situation “a tragic and sad case." But he added that DCF is acting in the girl’s best interests as required by the state.
A spokeswoman for DCF, Marilyn Munoz, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the agency had no choice but to prevent the abortion. She noted that a Florida law says “In no case shall the department consent to sterilization, abortion, or termination of life support."
“As a state agency, we have higher standards when it comes to accountability. We have to follow the law…We can’t consent to it no matter what," Munoz said.
Rep. John Stargel (R-Lakeland), who is pro-life, said DCF officials were correct to intervene.
“The courts are the only arena to decide if a 13-year-old is mature enough to make that decision," Stargel told the Sun-Sentinel.