Dissenting judge cites teen's GPA and poor grammar to support need for parental consent for abortion
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A Florida appeals judge is being criticized for a dissent in which he argued that a 17-year-old girl’s grades and poor grammar supported a trial judge’s refusal to allow an abortion without parental consent.
The dissenting judge, Judge John K. Stargel of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, is married to a state lawmaker who sponsored the bill requiring parental consent for abortions for girls younger than age 18, except when a court grants an exemption, the Lakeland Ledger reports. The bill was signed into law in June 2020, according to WFTS-TV.
Stargel said he would have upheld a trial judge’s findings that the girl, a high school junior, did not have sufficient maturity to make the decision. There is substantial evidence supporting the trial judge’s findings, Stargel said in the Jan. 18 opinion.
The trial judge said the girl had appeared “cavalier throughout the hearing, cutting the court short,” and giving rather “curt” responses to serious questions. Stargel said the trial judge was in a unique position to determine the girl’s credibility and demeanor.
“Of course, nerves could have been a factor for a young woman appearing in court,” Stargel wrote. “Again, while these are not conclusive, they certainly are factors the court may consider.”
The trial judge noted other problems, Stargel said. They included “two misspellings and serious grammatical problems” in her bypass petition. The girl was unable to correctly spell the seven-letter name of her former employer.
Stargel said the teenager testified that she is currently getting B grades, but her current GPA is 2.0. That means that she may have had a lower GPA before receiving the B grades, Stargel said.
Stargel also said the girl may not have understood the risks and potential complications of an abortion.
The majority overturned the trial judge’s decision and granted a waiver that allowed the abortion without parental approval.
The majority noted that the teen worked between 27 and 34 hours per week while attending high school. While her mother paid for cellphone bills, the teen said she pays for “everything else for me, like clothes, nails and all the other necessities.” Her parents provide her with housing and food, however. She had two credit cards and savings of $1,600.
The girl said she wanted to finish high school and join the military. She hoped to be financially stable and on her own before having a child, she said.
The majority also said that a C average or the making of B grades demonstrates an appropriate level of intelligence to qualify for judicial bypass. The girl also was able to read and understand health materials on the website of the facility that she intended to use for the abortion.
The girl had also spoken about her situation with her boyfriend’s mother, who has a nursing background.
The teen said she had considered adoption, but she didn’t want to “have a baby for nine months and then get attached.”
Stargel’s wife, Florida State Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican representing the Lakeland, Florida, area, told the Lakeland Ledger in an email that she and her husband share many values, but their official activities are separate.
“From what I have seen, the social media-driven rage over my husband’s dissent is rife with pro-abortion rhetoric yet so short on actual facts; I really have to question whether they actually read anything about the case,” Kelli Stargel wrote.
She said her husband argued that the trial judge was in the best position to evaluate the teen’s maturity.
A tweet by a Democratic state legislator that criticized Stargel’s decision had received more than a thousand likes and 500 retweets as of Friday, according to the Lakeland Ledger.