N., a 17-year-old living in Florida, told her story to If/When/How as part of our third annual Youth Abortion Access Week. We’re highlighting the excellent work of youth activists, legal professionals, clinic workers, and supporters around the country who are working to make forced parental involvement laws a thing of the past, ensuring that young people are able to access abortion care without barriers, shame, or stigma. For more information on how you can join the fight to support young people’s abortion access in Florida, check out TeenAbortionFlorida.com, and read more about If/When/How’s work to break down the barriers of forced parental involvement laws here.

When I had an abortion in Florida during COVID, it was really hard to get a judicial bypass — permission from a judge to let a young person get an abortion without parental consent. I had stopped being able to get my birth control pills because I couldn’t afford them, and when I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t want to tell my family. In fact, I didn’t want to tell anyone, so I went online. I was going on YouTube trying to find out what is the procedure, and how will it feel. I was nervous, and I was scared, but at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have been the right thing for me to continue the pregnancy.

At first, I searched for “How much does abortion cost?” Then, I searched for how I could get an abortion without parental consent — just searching and searching. Finally, I found out about judicial bypass on Google, and I tried to go to the court so many times, but they said they were closed and they wouldn’t let me in. There was so much security out front, and they said I had to have an appointment or know where I was going before I went in.

That’s when I called a clinic, and finally I got to talk to Miss E., the clinic manager who helped me through everything, and met J., the support volunteer who was next to me the whole time, driving me and meeting me at the courthouse. I don’t even know how to pay them back for this; I didn’t even know people like them existed!

Not everyone was so helpful. The court-appointed attorney assigned to my case told me that his wife didn’t want him to work with me because of what my situation was — getting an abortion. But once I got to the court, I already had the answers in my head before my attorney even told me what questions the judge would ask. The hearing took about fifteen minutes — J. was on my right, and my attorney stood on my left. They had to swear me in, and I felt really hot, like I was going to faint. I don’t want to be the center of attention! The judge asked me why I should be given a judicial bypass, and asked why I wouldn’t choose adoption instead. I told the judge that I wasn’t financially stable, and I didn’t want my parents or someone else to raise my child, and I had to finish school.

The judge did sign my judicial bypass, but I don’t like the fact that it’s so hard for young people to find an attorney and the court to get a judicial bypass. I appreciate that my court-appointed attorney came even though his wife told him no, but you’re an attorney! It’s your job — what your client wants, you get them. That felt unfair. For other young people, I say get some help! Call the clinic first. Where I went, they had supporters for me like Miss E. and J. They understood that I’m young, that this was not part of my plan, and I needed to be safe.

When I said I wanted to tell my story, Miss E. even asked if I was okay talking about it, and I said: I think I’m a good person to talk about this. I ask a lot of questions, and because I’m a young person, I can stand up for young people. Now, I’m working to make sure that other young people don’t have such a hard time like I did. I’ve joined the Judicial Bypass Working Group of the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition, because someone else shouldn’t tell you what to do with your own body. It’s just not right. You have the right to your own body. As a teen, you’re young — you have to experience things and live and learn. But your body is your own, and if you feel like something is not right for you, you know it’s not right for you.

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