Really Florida? A 16-year-old is mature enough to have a baby but not an abortion?
I was 31 when I had my first child. Though I was more or less financially stable, in a committed relationship and a licensed attorney, I still struggled.
The room got fuzzy, my stomach churned and the voices of the people around me started to not make any sense as my blood pressure steadily dropped. The obstetrician-gynecologist delivering my first daughter began barking orders at the resident physician (who looked terrified), the surgical nurse and the technician fluttering about the operating room hysterically.
I was out of it, but I could tell this was not good.
I would later learn that the anesthesiologist had perforated the dura mater in my spine when I was given an epidural during childbirth. It's a mistake that happens because mistakes can and do happen in surgical procedures, even with the best of doctors. But still, I could have died from shock and organ failure if my blood pressure kept dropping.
Luckily they got it back up.
Being a mother is hard, even when you're ready
I was 31 when I had my first child. And even though I was more or less financially stable, in a committed relationship and a licensed attorney, I still got serious postpartum depression that lasted nearly two years. I still struggled to get up at night to feed my daughter, boil her bottles, change her diaper and find quality, affordable child care. I struggled to be a good mom, I struggled to be a good partner and good friend, and a lot of times it felt like I failed.
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Because I was older, educated, working and supported by a partner who also had a stable source of income, I was able to seek out psychological counseling and, eventually, get my life back on track. If I would have been under more difficult circumstances, however, the recovery from post-partum depression would not have been possible.
I cannot imagine going through what I went through at the age of 16, and I can't imagine any 16-year-olds have the maturity and resources to manage pregnancy, birth and raising a child.
But a Florida court recently decided that 16-year-olds, while too immature to choose abortion, are mature enough to carry a pregnancy to term and become mothers.
I disagree. It's really hard to be pregnant, give birth and be a mom – even when you're prepared. To force it on a child is just plain cruel.
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There's reality and then there's Florida
According to federal law, 16-year-olds aren't old enough to drink, vote or serve their country. And according to an Escambia County (Florida) trial court judge, a 16-year-old girl was also too immature to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. An appeals court judge agreed with the lower court's decision.
But by denying her petition to bypass parental consent for an abortion, she is, apparently, mature enough to become a mother? The logic is fundamentally flawed. If someone is too immature to have an abortion, then they are obviously too immature to raise a kid.
According to court documents, the minor does not have parents but lives with a relative. In a handwritten form, she explained her reasons for wanting to end the pregnancy, saying she “is not ready to have a baby,” she doesn’t have a job, she is “still in school” and the father was unable to help her.
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The girl in Florida asked for an abortion because, according to her own petition, she did not have the resources necessary to provide a stable environment for that child. That's why most women decide to seek an abortion – they feel they don't have the resources to support a child – or more often, another child – at that point in time.
It's a shame the judge didn't listen to the teenager in front of her, desperate to avoid bringing a baby into this world she is not ready to raise. Motherhood is really hard. Doing it without financial or family support sounds like an incredibly unfair burden to place on a child of 16, someone who is herself a child.
Zoom out: maternal health care today
Since the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, advocates, pregnant people and health care providers have been scrambling to navigate the legal landscape for abortion care, as nearly two dozen states have severely restricted or outright banned abortion health care.
Before these new restrictions went into place, things were already bad. The rate of unplanned pregnancies was already high in states that increased abortion restrictions after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling.
States like Florida are not only unprepared to support the onslaught of new mothers, like the unfortunate 16-year-old Jane Doe, but also have some of the worst maternal health care, and health care outcomes, overall.
Things won't be getting better for a while, either. My heart goes out to all the women and girls who don't yet (or ever) want to be moms, but will have no choice but to become mothers.
I know what it's like to suffer through childbirth and after. I also know how hard it is, and expensive, to raise kids today. I wouldn't wish motherhood on anyone who wasn't ready for it, let alone on a child.
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