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Judge who denied Florida teen an abortion citing grades loses reelection

A state judge who, in a highly publicized case, denied a 17-year-old an abortion in part because of her grades lost his election in a Florida primary on Tuesday.

Jared Smith, who was appointed to Florida’s 13th Circuit Court by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2019, narrowly lost his nonpartisan primary against attorney Nancy Jacobs.

Jacobs received roughly 51.9 percent of the vote, beating Smith by about 3.7 percentage points, or roughly 7,900 votes.

Smith had ruled in January that the 17-year-old, who was kept anonymous in court documents, could not receive an abortion, citing her grades. An appeals court overturned the ruling.

“While she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony, her GPA is currently 2.0,” Smith ruled. “Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA.” 

Florida is one of six states that require both parental notification and consent for minors to obtain abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The teen had asked the court to waive the requirement. 

Under Florida law, a judge can waive parental consent if it finds by “clear and convincing evidence” that the minor is “sufficiently mature” to decide to have an abortion. In considering those requests, judges are required to assess factors like the minor’s age, overall intelligence and emotional stability.

The statute has led to multiple high-profile cases, including one earlier this month in which a Florida appeals court ruled a 16-year-old did not demonstrate she met the maturity requirement to circumvent the parental notification and consent requirements.

Smith received an array of endorsements in the primary race, including former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez (R), the Tampa Bay Times’s editorial board and multiple retired judges who served on the circuit. 

Democrats have hoped the Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion in June will help energize voters in this year’s midterm elections and avoid steep losses for the party as it seeks to maintain control of Congress.

Voters in Kansas, a traditionally red state, rejected a ballot question earlier this month that would remove abortion rights from the state constitution.

As voters headed to the polls in Florida on Tuesday and defeated Smith in his circuit court race, New York’s simultaneous primary showed another sign of the potential impact of the abortion ruling.

Pat Ryan (D), who made supporting abortion rights a cornerstone of his campaign, defeated Marc Molinaro (R) in the state’s 19th Congressional District, a bellwether district that voted for former President Obama in 2012, former President Trump in 2016 and President Biden in 2020.

Tags abortion Florida Florida abortion ban Florida primaries Jared Smith Roe v. Wade Ron DeSantis

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