Regina Medina of Philly.com writes that the Philadelphia sixteen-year-old, whose name has not been made public, had a one-year-old daughter when she became pregnant again. Her foster mother, who has also not been identified, says Department of Human Services caseworker Cynthia Brown told the teenager her children would be separated if she went through with the pregnancy. The foster mother alleges that she wanted to carry her fetus to term, and that she only agreed to an abortion for fear of losing her other child.
The case has number of complications. Most significantly, the foster mother is not fluent in English, and another source disputes her account, saying the girl was never unduly influenced. What is clear, however, is that choice can be a fraught concept when a minor is pregnant, and especially when that minor is in the foster care system. But regardless of her circumstances, the Philadelphia teen deserved control over her body.
We don't always discuss money as an aspect of abortion politics, but it's going to become ever more important as healthcare reform makes insurance for abortion hard to come by, and as Florida requires abortion-seeking women to pay for their own ultrasounds. Economic hardship is going to force more women not to have abortions, but on the flip side, it's possible that the economic concerns of the foster care system forced the Philadelphia teen to terminate. The most disturbing interpretation of the case is that DHS didn't want to have to care for her second child. If that's not true — and let's hope it's not — it's still the case that by virtue of her status as a foster child, the teen had more people around to potentially influence her decision. DHS could use its resources to counsel and support pregnant foster children, whatever they choose to do — it shouldn't use them to take away teens' choices.
One voice is absent from coverage of this story: that of the teen herself. Medina wasn't able to reach her, but really it's her perspective that's the most important. Yesterday Margaret Morganroth Gullette wrote poignantly in Women's eNews of her mother's decision to abort in order to devote her time, money, and energy to the two children she already had. That's an option everyone deserves to have, but it's also a choice everyone, even at a young age, deserves to make for herself.
Image via emin kuliyev/Shutterstock.com.