The story of a Texas teenager who's suing her family to stop them pressuring her into an abortion is all over the anti-abortion media. But their coverage of it shows how poorly they understand what it means to be pro-choice.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that the 14-year-old girl, who hasn't been named, alleges that her family scheduled an abortion appointment for her against her will. According to her lawyer, Stephen Casey of the Texas Center for the Defense of Life, she says family members kept her from going to school, and she accuses one cousin of "physically assaulting her by grabbing her by the neck, hitting her across the jaw and threatening to beat her if she didn't get an abortion." Another cousin allegedly said the girl was "mentally unstable" and incapable of caring for a child. The TCDL also maintains that the father of the fetus the girl is carrying, and his mother, support her desire to carry the pregnancy to term. Judge Missy Medary of the 347th State District Court of Texas has issued a temporary restraining order preventing her family "either directly or indirectly from forcing her to have an abortion against her will." It's in effect until a hearing on January 19, at which point Medary will decide whether to extend it for the full length of the girl's pregnancy.
The girl hasn't spoken publicly, and there are so many competing interests at work in her case that it's difficult to tell what she herself wants. In addition to her family and the father's family, there's also the TCDL, which as of now is the only source of public information about her side of the story. They apparently got involved when the girl's friends contacted a crisis pregnancy center on her behalf. Now TCDL CEO Greg Terra says, "We intend to fully support this young woman in her desire to allow her child to live. Every mother has the legal right to keep her unborn child, against the coercion of others, and we intend to support her decision in this case."
Continuing her pregnancy may well be what the girl wants, but it's a little disturbing that the TCDL's narrative is the only one out there. Her family doesn't have legal representation, so it's been difficult to get their point of view. A court representative told me that Judge Medary had appointed attorney Fran Willms as the girl's guardian for legal purposes — so far, due to the sensitivity of the case and due to her charge's age, Willms hasn't been able to provide me with any comment. As of now, I've been unable to confirm from any outside source that the girl's family is actually trying to force her to have an abortion — the only source for this story is the TCDL, which has an obvious vested interest in painting itself as the defender of a mother and her baby against an abortion-hungry family.
Why would this narrative be so appealing to an anti-choice group? Because it makes pro-choicers look like hypocrites. Kristen Walker of Live Action (the organization founded by anti-choice child prodigy Lila Rose) writes,
If the girl were suing her parents to get an abortion, what do you want to bet the anti-lifers would have this kid's face on a T-shirt already? It's not choice they are concerned with. If so, they would be standing up for this girl's right to choose to keep her baby. They don't care about her right to give birth. They care about her right to abort.
Walker also quotes some pro-choice comments from Democratic Underground, only one of which actually supports the family's (alleged) desire to force the girl to abort. Others are more nuanced. Says salvorhardin,
A woman's right to choose, is a woman's right to choose, and if we support choice for other minors, with or without parental notification, then we should also support this young woman's right to carry her baby to term. On the other hand, she's 14 years old, and her parents are going to bear the financial burden of her pregnancy, and possibly raising the kid if she doesn't elect for adoption. And if she actually is mentally unstable, then that's a whole other can of worms. I feel sorry for her and her family.
The girl wants to keep this pregnancy and she should be allowed to, no question. However, we do know what's down the road for her in terms of diminished expectations and it's sad.
It's not as sad as having her parents force an abortion on her when she doesn't want it. That's the way to destroy all trust in her parents and quite possibly supply other scars, as well.
Really, no responsible pro-choicer should support a family's right to force a teenager to get an abortion. It might not be especially comfortable to think about a 14-year-old making a decision that will affect the rest of her life (anti-choicers like to say that abortions also impact women for the rest of their lives, and while this can happen, the claim that most women suffer permanent psychological damage from abortion is pure bullshit). But taking that decision away from her is way more upsetting — if we want to protect teens from families who would force them to carry their pregnancies to term, we also have to protect this girl from a family who wants to bully her into an abortion. Because despite the anti-abortion media's attempts to caricature us, safeguarding the bodily autonomy of women and girls is what advocates for choice are about.
14-Year-Old Girl Sues Family To Stop Abortion [Live Action]
Family stopped from forcing Texas teen to have abortion [Texas Center for Defense of Life]
Court order prevents family of Corpus Christi teen from forcing her to get abortion [Caller.com]