Stephanie Testifies Against Florida’s Proposal 22

On January 25, 2018, We Testify Abortion Storyteller Stephanie Loraine testified before the Constitution Revision Commission at the Declaration of Rights Committee in opposition to Proposal 22, a policy that would undo the State of Florida’s Right to Privacy protections, and would open the floodgates for parental consent laws and 24-hour waiting period–recently thrown out by Florida courts–violating young people’s access to an abortion. Read the transcript of her testimony below, and her interview with the Tampa Bay Times:

Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee. My name is Stephanie Pineiro and I am a social worker living in Orlando, Florida. Today, I am here to speak in opposition to Proposal 22 and the judicial bypass I was forced to obtain because I was unable to notify my parents of my need for an abortion.

I grew up in a home plagued by domestic violence. Fear ruled our family. Fear ruled my life.

My parents were young working class people, without a college education, who did what they could to raise their 4 children. By the time I was 15, I was working two jobs to support my family, while attending high school. I didn’t have time for extra-curriculars like many of my peers did; I was helping my family survive the recession and studying to make good grades, hoping to earn a college scholarship.

When I was 17,  a junior in high school, I began a dual enrollment program in community college to accelerate my pathway to college. I’d just bought my first car and began my first romantic relationship. But at the tail-end of the summer, I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t tell my parents. They would have forced me to continue the pregnancy against my will.

I searched the internet to see what my options were to get an abortion without my parents’ permission in Florida. I found out that Florida had a parental notification law and called an abortion clinic to ask about the process. They were kind, but unfortunately informed me that I needed to physically bring a parent with me, as well as an original birth certificate with both of our names listed proving they were indeed my parents, and ID’s proving our identities. It was impossible for me. And for families who don’t have all of their documents or great relationships, it’s impossible for them, too.

I continued to look online and I learned about the judicial bypass process, and began calling a hotline I found. I called for 2 days, getting nothing but a busy signal, until I received an answer. During those 2 days, I searched the internet for ways to end my own pregnancy. I read I could take 5000mg of vitamin C over 5 days. I considered throwing myself down the stairs. I even considered ending my life knowing a pregnancy would be the end of my future. That is how desperate I was.

After days of calling, I finally got through to a hotline worker who connected me with an attorney who agreed to take my case pro-bono. I finally felt some relief.

I spent the next 2 weeks working at my waitressing job, saving up my tips for my abortion, attending my college classes, and gathering all the documentation the attorney requested. I had an ultrasound, and I was forced to see it even though I didn’t want to. I had to gather police records from the times my father was charged with child abuse after beating me and leaving me with bruises. I provided my school transcripts reflecting my dual enrollment course load. I even wrote an essay talking about why I desperately needed an abortion. I turned in all those papers to a judge in Duval County Florida who presided over my fate.

Thankfully, the judge approved my judicial bypass and I had the abortion I needed. Not everyone is so lucky.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 90 percent of 14-year-olds and 74 percent of 15-year-olds surveyed said they involved at least one parent or guardian in their abortion decision.

Those young people who didn’t, cited that they were worried that they may be thrown out or experience other abuse by their guardian. Parental notification laws do nothing but put those of us who are already in danger in more harm’s way. In 1988, Becky Bell was 17, just like me. When she tried to get an abortion in Indiana, she found out about the parental involvement laws, just like me. And like me, she was afraid to tell her parents, so she sought an illegal abortion. And she died.

A year after my judicial bypass, I graduated from high school and received my associates degree, simultaneously. I was finally 18 and moved into my dorm at the University of North Florida fully funded by scholarships. I graduated college at 20 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees and went on to receive my Masters of Social Work at 23. I now work as a social worker focused on advocacy in the Latino community.

I am thankful for my abortion. I am thankful for the lawyer who supported me through the process. But I shouldn’t have had to do all of that to receive healthcare. In 2016, 193 minors navigated the same complicated process I did, just to access abortion;. Proposal 22 would remove the Right to Privacy protection that protects young people from parental consent laws, which forces young people to go to court to get healthcare, or take matters into their own hands..

I am not ashamed of having an abortion. I do not regret my decision to decide what was best for my future. I was determined to have an abortion, with or without the state’s permission.

I urge the committee to remember that abortion clinics across the state of Florida already follow guidelines to notify parents about abortions. I urge the CRC to preserve the explicit privacy protections in Florida’s Constitution as they relate to our access to abortion services. Do this for me. Do this for Becky.

Thank you.

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