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DCF Interference in Teenage Abortion Fuels Pro Life Debate

By Jehanne Wyllie

The controversial dispute over a woman’s right to choose continues even after the Department of Children and Families decides to drop its case to block a thirteen- year-old in foster care from getting an abortion.

A thirteen-year-old West Palm Beach foster girl found herself in the midst of political and ethical upheaval after fighting the DCF because she felt she needed an abortion. The teenager, identified only as L.G, has been under the protective custody of the child welfare agency and was believed to be living in a St. Petersburg Group when she became pregnant.

Represented by the America Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, L.G succeeded in ending her pregnancy despite legal intervention by the DCF early last month. Trying to convince a West Palm Beach County judge to forbid the termination and subject L.G. to a psychiatric evaluation, the DCF at one point claimed the girl was too immature to make such a decision.

According to her attorneys, “almost immediately after learning she was pregnant, L.G. informed her case worker that she wished to terminate her pregnancy.” The Sun-Sentinel Reports that during the court hearing, L.G. commented, “I don’t think I should have the baby because I’m thirteen, I’m in a shelter and I can’t get a job.”

During the court hearings, L.G.’s attorneys refuted the DCF’s claim that it was simply following the Florida law that states, “in no case shall the department [DCF] consent to the sterilization, abortion or termination of life support” on behalf of an individual in their care.

Citing a Florida Supreme court decision called the T.W. Case, in which the high court struck down a state law requiring minors to receive adult consent before receiving an abortion, “DCF and the circuit court have instituted a process whereby the state will make a decision for L.G. based upon its own evaluation of her best interest. This it cannot do,” the girl’s lawyers argued.

Throughout the entire ordeal, DCF maintained that their primary interest was always the welfare of the teen, whose parents had earlier been stripped of their right to raise her. Although they neglected to talk about the case at length, a spokesperson at one point said, “[DCF] is acting in accordance with what we believe to be in the best interest of the child.”

Juvenile court judge Ronald Alvarez lifted a 4th District Court of Appeal stay requested by the DCF to block the abortion.

“As the days go by, the circumstances become more compelling, and the further delay puts this child’s life at risk.” Alvarez commented in court.

Much to the delight of pro-choice organizations and the dismay of pro-life supporters, L.G. was granted her right, and underwent her abortion on Tuesday May 4th.

While L.G.’s ordeal is over, this issue is of course far from finished. The next time a crisis like this occurs, politicians on both sides will again line up to try to force their agendas on whatever hapless teenager is faced with similar circumstances.

0 0 175 11 June, 2005 Health, Lifestyle, News June 11, 2005

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