State Halts Teen’s Choice. Again.

Trish Wilson points out that I was right. A Florida state appeal was made within hours after the ruling.

A 13-year-old Palm Beach County foster child at the center of a legal battle over her right to end an unwanted pregnancy got permission from a judge Monday to get an abortion — but was thwarted shortly afterward when state child-welfare officials appealed.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Ronald Alvarez, who only last week temporarily blocked the girl’s decision to terminate her pregnancy, ruled late Monday that the teenager may obtain an abortion, said Maxine Williams, the girl’s attorney at Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. The girl is identified in court papers only as L.G.

”Judge Alvarez did issue an order saying she is competent,” said Howard Simon, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which also represents the girl. “She has made a decision. She has a right to exercise that decision. And, acting on her decision is in her best interests.”

…By appealing Alvarez’s order Monday, the DCF was granted an automatic stay of his ruling. Under a procedural rule, state agencies are entitled to a stay of any court ruling they appeal. But, acting on a request from L.G.’s attorneys, Alvarez lifted that stay and ordered the DCF to transport L.G. to a medical clinic.

DCF officials then ”refused” to drive the girl to a clinic to end her pregnancy, said Williams, the girl’s attorney.

Alvarez then signed an order allowing L.G.’s attorneys at Legal Aid to transport her to a medical clinic, Williams said. The lawyers were on their way to pick up the girl when they got word: The DCF had appealed Alvarez’s order allowing the lawyers to transport L.G. and, once again, had received an automatic stay, this time from the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

The stay was granted so late in the day that L.G.’s attorneys had no time to act. The procedure was halted, Williams said.

The state only has to keep her tied up in a court mess for about eight more months before they can forget all about her again.

UPDATE: In the words of Robert, this appears to be the DCF’s final fuck you to Judge Alvarez before stepping back and allowing her to continue.

State Department of Children & Families spokeswoman Marilyn Munoz said the agency would “respectfully comply with the court’s decision.” She declined to provide further details.

“We are working for the best interest of the young girl,” Munoz said.

Right. And now that all the bad publicity is out on Florida and the DCF, we can push her back into a state home and pretend the girl doesn’t exist.

My heart goes out to this girl.

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15 comments for “State Halts Teen’s Choice. Again.

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  2. May 3, 2005 at 11:33 am

    According to this story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, DCF will not in fact appeal. It appears that last night’s maneuver was a final “fuck you” before they decided to comply with Judge Alvarez’s ruling.

  3. May 3, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Hmmm Florida doesn’t seem to do a particularily good job taking care of children in the state. . . DCF screws up royally on many an occasion (this one included – they never reported the girl missing when she ran away) and child molesters have easy access to kids there because Florida toughens laws but then doesn’t enforce them. Do you have to live in Florida to try to adopt someone in their foster care system? This girl’s probably a handful, but I think I could do a better job helping her get her shit togeher than that state.

    Is it me or do they only screw with women down there?

  4. May 3, 2005 at 12:05 pm

    Cranky, though your question about foster care was probably a rhetorical question, my understanding is that children are to remain either within their own families or as close to their original homes as possible. Overall, the primary goal is reunification with their birth families, but if that is not possible, extended family comes next, and then in-home foster care. State homes tend to be the last remaining option.

    Again, many states have a one-year goal of having permanent placement for all kids in the system. If they can’t find permanent placement, they are supposed to have a long-term placement plan for them within that time period. This girl has reportedly spent at least four years in a state home even though she is not being treated for learning or emotional disabilities. Other than being a general “handful,” as you said, there should be no reason that she has spent this much time in the system. No wonder she ran away multiple times.

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  6. Laurie
    May 3, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Actually, they don’t need to keep it tied up a whole eight months. She was 13 weeks pregnant at the time the first post I saw went up. She is rapidly approaching approaching the point where most states won’t *allow* abortion to occur. All they have to do is tie it up for another six weeks or so, which is generally *nothing* in terms of legal wrangling. Bleah! :-P

    Hopefully, no one will change their mind at the last minute again.

  7. May 3, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    I love it that she’s not “competent” to decide to have an abortion but she is mature and competent enough to give birth, have a child, and have to possibly make the decision when said child is there and tugging at emotions to adopt or to live a life of poverty which might eventually lead to her own child being in the same pattern of abuse and pain that she is in. /sarcasm.

  8. May 3, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    Me, if I was her case worker, I’d drive her to the clinic anyways and let the bastards try to make a case against me. If I was fired, so what? Sometimes civil servants have to make a stand.

  9. janet
    May 3, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    This whole story is appalling. Do these state officials have any idea how dangerous it is for a 13-year-old to carry to term and give birth? The risk of just about any complication is much higher than for an adult or even an older teen. They are playing with this girl’s life.

  10. May 3, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    Ever notice that Florida is like a great big flaccid penis?

  11. May 3, 2005 at 11:27 pm

    I’m glad that the DCF will “respectfully comply” with the judge’s decision. In the short term, the 13-year-old girl is the winner.

    But I’m worried that conservatives in Florida are losing the battle in order to win the war. Not to be too cliched, but I think that they want to make this yet another example of “activist judges” at work. I think that the DCF was incompetent and that they are trying to make themselves look responsible all of a sudden. But, at the same time, I smell a setup in which conservative groups are looking for an opportunity to say “see, look what those judges are doing! Let’s get rid of ’em!”

  12. May 4, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    I wish that we could set up some kind of donation fund for L.G. If anyone can figure out how to do this, let me know.

  13. Eloise
    May 5, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    The Floida DCF should have had that child on her way to an abortion clinic the day it found out she was pregnant. A 13-year-old should never been impregnated much less have to endure the pregnancy. If she should die in childbirth, will they just say “Too bad”? I do not believe abortion should be used a a means of birth control; but, this issue has nothing to do with that birth control. This is an issue to save this child.

  14. May 6, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    How typical of Florida. I guess the DCF is worried about losing “business” and wanted another disenfranchised child on its client list.

    This isn’t just a case of them saying ‘too bad’ if she were to die in childbirth. It’s a case of every anti-choice person involved saying “too bad” once she gave birth to a baby she didn’t want or couldn’t care for.

    Hopefully she is on her way to getting a safe and LEGAL abortion.

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