Skip to main content

A Judge Tried To Keep a Teen Girl From Getting an Abortion Because He Thought Her GPA Showed a Lack of “Maturity”

Woman holding sign that says, "Ugh, where do I even start?"

In the dozens of states across the country that require minors to obtain their parents’ or guardians’ permission in order to get an abortion, those minors have the option to seek “judicial bypass” instead, meaning they can get a judge to give them permission rather than their parents.

In the very best of circumstances, making a teen or child go to court and stand in front of a judge before they can get an abortion is a burden they should not have to experience. In the worst circumstances, it can be an embarrassing and dehumanizing retraumatization.

(OK, in the very worst circumstances—meaning Alabama—lawmakers can try to put those young people in a full-on trial scenario, including appointing an attorney to the fetus and bringing in witnesses.)

A judge in Florida recently subjected a teenager to the latter. Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Jared E. Smith tried to deny a 17-year-old girl named in court filings as “Jane Doe” access to abortion, arguing that her GPA was too low to show maturity—but apparently indicating she is mature enough to give birth.

Smith appeared to take issue with the fact that Doe has a 2.0 GPA but when asked what kind of grades she gets, she said she gets Bs. It’s possible she is currently getting Bs and is bringing her overall high school GPA up but Smith doesn’t seem to have explored this, not that it matters either way.

Literally everyone deserves to have access to abortion, not just those with grades high enough to please a judge, and if Smith is so concerned with Doe’s GPA, being forced to carry a pregnancy to term—even if she then puts it up for adoption—isn’t likely to help bring her grades up.

Smith apparently thought the discrepancy in Doe’s testimony was a huge deal, stating it “evinces either a lack of intelligence or credibility, either of which weigh against a finding of maturity pursuant to the statute.”

Fortunately, an appeals court overturned Smith’s ruling 2-1 and allowed Doe to obtain an abortion. But it should never have come to that. This girl should not have had to go through two court proceedings just to get an abortion.

In fact, she had to go through two proceedings just to get information about getting an abortion—something that was then used against her.

According to the appeal ruling, Smith had asked Doe what she knew about the abortion process and possible side effects. She said she’d gone to a local clinic to get a sonogram and information about the abortion pill, but was turned away and told she needed to get the judicial bypass before they could even talk to her. So she found what she could on Google, which she admitted to the judge she knew was not always a reliable source.

This lack of information was then used against her, by Smith and also by the one appellate judge who ruled against overturning the original decision. “The trial court expressed grave concerns about her ability to identify immediate health risks and obtain proper medical treatment because she does not have sufficient ability to understand the risks,” that judge wrote in his dissent.

So Doe was being denied judicial bypass because she didn’t have the information she was legally unable to obtain without already having the bypass.

This is not the only absurd gap in logic evident in Smith’s ruling because this was never about caring for her, it’s about exerting power over vulnerable people. Smith also appears to have cited the fact that Doe doesn’t have any responsibility in caring for her younger siblings as a sign of her lack of maturity. Except Doe doesn’t seem to have any younger siblings.

Smith framed the fact that Doe doesn’t have to pay for housing (she lives with her family) or her cell phone bill, as well as the fact that she doesn’t have a driver’s license, as evidence that she doesn’t have a lot of responsibilities in her life, as if this means she must lack maturity. But that’s clearly false. She has a job and works upwards of 25 hours a week. She has two credit cards and $1,600 in savings. The decision not to drive doesn’t sound like it was hers, but on her father’s insistence.

Not that any of this matters! She is 17 and having a typical 17-year-old’s level of responsibility is not a sign of immaturity. And even if she were immature, at the end of all of this, that is not a reason to force her to give birth.

Judicial bypass is one of those things that sounds like it makes sense. If a young person doesn’t feel safe talking to their parents or is unable to get permission for abortion, there needs to be another option. But this clearly isn’t it.

Forcing young people to go to court, and then to make them go through an appeals process, in states with a wide range of cutoff deadlines for abortions (not to mention the cutoff for medication abortion), making them supplicate themselves before judges who clearly disdain them and arbitrarily apply their own criteria to decide what could essentially amount to the trajectory of this young person’s entire life—we have to be able to find a better option than that.

(via Jezebel, Vice, image: Avivi Aharon /

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.