.- After a temporary restraining order, the parents of a 16-year-old girl in Texas have agreed not to force their daughter to have an abortion against her will. Sidewalk counselors saw the violent coercion in progress and called police.
The teenager’s mother brought her by force to local abortion facilities on two occasions, demanding she get an abortion. Her parents insisted that she have one even though she refused and the father of her baby also did not want the abortion.
Attorneys allied with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) secured a temporary restraining order blocking the parents from forcing their daughter to go to an abortion facility. On Thursday they signed a long-term court order prohibiting them from forcing their daughter to have an abortion for the duration of her pregnancy.
“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life--especially one that belongs to someone else--is worthless,” commented ADF attorney Stephen Casey of Round Rock, Texas.
ADF attorney Gregory R. Terra of Georgetown agreed.
“The parents made the right decision, one which they, their daughter, the baby’s father, and especially their grandchild, will appreciate,” he said.
The 16-year-old, a high school student, is 14 weeks pregnant. She became more resolute against having an abortion after she received information from a pro-lifer outside one of the abortion facilities.
“The right not to have an abortion is protected by law, and this right isn’t relinquished just because someone else considers the child to be an unwanted burden,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “This situation illustrates what a difference it can make when a woman is more fully informed about the true nature of abortion.”
Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, told CNA that this was a “fairly extreme” case of coercion, with reports the girl was dragged by her hair.
Elizabeth McClung of the Austin Coalition for Life was not present for the Oct. 9 incident at the International Health Care Solutions independent clinic in northwest Austin. However, she reported that sidewalk counselors involved in the 40 Days for Life campaign had spoken with the girl before her mother started “getting physical.”
The girl’s mother “was shoving her, hitting her, pushing her. She actually fell on the ground and scraped her leg.”
“At one point she actually was holding onto the bed of a pickup truck in the parking lot but her mom was yanking on her to go inside.”
Pro-life advocates who witnessed the coercion called the Texas Alliance for Life and asked what they should do.
“Dial 911, that is a crime occurring,” they were told, according to Pojman. “No one can be coerced, it may be an assault.”
“We stayed on public property, we didn’t trespass,” McClung told CNA. “We called police and were peacefully praying.”
When police arrived, the counselors told the police they were available to help. When the girl and her mother came out, the sidewalk counselor emphasized to the young woman that it was her decision not to have an abortion. She gave the girl her name and phone number.
While the teen’s mother did take her to Planned Parenthood a few days after the incident, she again decided not to abort, McClung reported. A local maternity home has offered to help the young woman.
“That girl is extremely courageous, because she had to go against her parents’ wishes, which should not be taken lightly,” Pojman continued. “But in extreme situations where parents (are) forcing abortion on a minor who clearly does not want it, it is time to step in to intervene, to work with the parents if possible but also to involve police and courts.”
Pojman said the incident sparked the realization that many in the Austin pro-life community lacked a process for how to help coerced women.
“Be familiar with the law,” he suggested. “Have attorneys available to take these cases.”
“No person, whether adult or a minor, should be in anyway coerced into having a procedure she doesn’t want, especially an abortion.”
McClung recommended materials from the Center Against Forced Abortion (CAFA), a project of the San Antonio-based Justice Foundation.
“We had spoken about it before and we had a protocol in place but this was the first time in practice.”
Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation, said the Austin case shows the need for attorneys willing to help women being coerced to have abortions.
Coerced abortion is “extremely frequent” in America, Parker claimed.
“I have spoken with hundreds of pregnancy resource centers. They say it is a very frequent problem.
CAFA has produced a “Dear Parent” letter which often suffices to stop parents from coercing their daughter to have an abortion by noting the illegal nature of their intended action.
“Most parents think they can make the decision because they’re the parent. They don’t realize that it’s illegal.”
“The best thing for pro-life clinic demonstrators to remember is to tell the young woman: ‘No one can legally force you to have an abortion. Period.’
“If the girl herself will continue to tell that to the abortionists, most abortionists will not perform an abortion, though some have.”
The sidewalk counselors should also have the “Dear Parent” letter with them for the girl, for the police and for social service agencies, Parker recommended.
He also noted the “second largest problem” is men forcing adult women to have an abortion because the man does not want to take care of a child.
“It’s illegal for the father of the child to force the mother to have an abortion,” he repeated.
“Education is the best answer at this time. Abstinence ed courses should include this training,” as should pregnancy resource centers, Parker advised.
Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life said the teen in the Austin incident is ending a rough period of her life.
“Hopefully she and her parents can reconcile,” he said. “She is brave and her boyfriend is also very brave and supportive.
“She was many times close to being despondent. But she’s a brave and tough kid. It’s a shame she had to go through this, but it looks like it’s going to be a good ending, for this chapter of her life at least.”
McClung also drew lessons from the coercion attempt.
“We’re there not just for the baby but for the mothers as well. We’re talking to the mothers not their babies. Let’s reinforce the fact that there are so many people who want to help them, not break them down,” she said.
She praised the young woman for refusing the abortion despite the “very difficult” situation of her parents’ opposition. “There’s a real community of support standing behind her and helping her through this.”
The CAFA website is at the URL http://www.txjf.org/