[From the diaries by susanhbu.]

She is thirteen. She does not have a home. She does not have parents. She has been in and out of foster homes for years. She is pregnant. And if the state of Florida has its way, the Miami Herald reports, she will be forced to give birth against her will.
You can ask your medical professional about the physical and biological effects of pregnancy on a child’s body.

You can ask your mental health care professional about the advisability of heaping emotional and mental agony onto a budding life that has known little else.

But I think to really get inside this case, you will have to look at a thirteen year old girl. Maybe you have one of your own. If not, you can, like me, borrow one from a friend, or a neighbor. Just to look at her.

The one I chose lives on a tree lined street, in a brick house, small, but neat and filled with a loving family. She is at that “awkward” stage that novelists like to call “coltish.” All arms, and legs, and teeth, the latter adorned with braces that make her father grit his teeth every month when he pays the bill.

She is practicing her gymnastics, improbable contortions that involve standing on her hands and making old people like me think for a moment that she was born without joints. But no, she is just thirteen, fixing her brother’s bicycle now, brows drawn in concentration, triumphant smile that gives us just a glimpse of the woman she will become, then off to chase both brother and puppy, filling the street with the laugh that reminds us of the child that she will always be, if fate is kind to her.

If, God forbid, she should ever find herself in a predicament, she can sit down with her parents and tell them about it. She knows she can, and I know she can, because her older sister, now astonishing her professors at a prestigious university did just that. They are a good, intelligent couple who love each other and love their kids. And heaven help any man, woman or agency that would ever try to harm one of them, inflict harm on harm.

Little L.G. in Florida, I will repeat, does not have parents. Or a loving home, or anyone (except a few lawyers) to stand up for her right to grow into womanhood naturally, gently, performing strange contortions and fixing bicycles. her right to one day, when she is old enough to decide for herself, to make her own choices. About sex, about motherhood. Choices for a woman, not a child.

Even with all that against her, little L.G. has made her decision, the decision that nature has decreed is hers to make, even though she is a child. L.G. apparently has more sense than some adults. She knows she is a child, and she knows she has no business giving birth.

Unfortunately, she does not live in a society that considers her body her own property.

The plight of a 13-year-old Palm Beach County foster child, who is pregnant and wants an abortion, is pitting children’s advocates against Florida’s child welfare agency, which has custody of the girl and has asked a judge to forbid her from ending her 13-week pregnancy.

The Department of Children & Families, which has been responsible for the girl for many years, argued to a West Palm Beach judge Tuesday that the girl is too immature to decide for herself whether to carry the pregnancy to term.

Attorneys for the girl, who is identified in court papers only as L.G., told Judge Ronald Alvarez that Florida courts have consistently held that, under the state’s strongly worded privacy law, minors have a right to decide for themselves whether to continue or abort a pregnancy.

A spokeswoman for DCF, which provoked a firestorm in 2003 when officials sought to prevent a severely disabled Orlando woman, J.D.S., from terminating her pregnancy, declined to discuss the case at length.

”The Department of Children & Families is acting in accordance with what we believe is in the best interest of the child,” said Zoraya Suarez, a spokeswoman for Secretary Lucy Hadi. “If a child in our care requires any procedure that is prohibited by Florida statute, we cannot consent to that procedure.”

Florida law says that ”in no case shall the department [DCF] consent to a sterilization, abortion or termination of life support” on behalf of a client under department care.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, which are representing the girl, insist that the Florida law is trumped by a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision, called the T.W. case. Citing privacy rights, the high court struck down a state law that required the consent of parents before a minor could obtain an abortion.

L.G., whose parents were stripped of their rights to raise her, has been in foster care for several years. Though she is originally from Palm Beach County, sources say she was living in a group home in St. Petersburg when she became pregnant. She now lives in a licensed shelter home, records show.

About two weeks ago, L.G. learned she was pregnant following a medical examination, records show. ”Almost immediately after learning that she was pregnant, L.G. informed [her] DCF caseworker that she wished to terminate the pregnancy,” according to pleadings filed by her attorneys.

The abortion was scheduled for Tuesday. But early Tuesday morning, DCF attorneys, in an emergency motion, asked Alvarez to block the abortion. He agreed, temporarily, and ordered the girl be examined for mental competency.

In court papers, L.G.’s lawyers say the girl, ”though a longtime ward of the state,” was never determined to be incompetent, and was never placed in a mental institution for treatment — an action that is not uncommon for longtime foster children…. link

0 0 votes
Article Rating