Pro-life advocates have often pointed out the absurdity of parental consent laws as they relate to abortion, like the fact that a fifteen-year-old can’t get her ears pierced at a shopping mall without Mom or Dad signing the “OK,” but a 12-year-old can leave school and undergo an invasive surgical procedure without her parents ever being the wiser. This might be the newest ironic twist in parental consent laws, though: a teenager suing her parents to prevent them from coercing her to have an abortion. Apparently, while parents are keenly aware they can’t keep their daughter from undergoing a risky surgical procedure, some of them think they can require it.
The 16-year-old Texas native, identified by the initials REK on account of her status as a minor, is currently 9 weeks pregnant and wants to carry her baby. Her boyfriend and his family, and his paternal grandparents (with whom she has been living for the past seven months), agree with her decision and are intending to help her in it. The girl’s parents, however, are adamant not only that she needs an abortion, but that it is their decision to make. According to the complaint, her father told her he was going to “drag her little a** out of the there” and bring her to the clinic, and “the decision was his, end of story,” while her mother has stated she will “make the decision for her.” Her parents have also allegedly taken away her car and her cell phone in an attempt to force her to go along, and also kept her home from school for the purpose of bringing her to have an abortion. The young girl’s mother even intimated that if she does not consent, she will slip her daughter an abortion pill without her knowledge.
So in an ironic twist, the teenager is petitioning the courts for the exact opposite type of relief usually sought. In Texas, courts are usually petitioned by minors who want to obtain an abortion without parental consent, but REK is suing instead to ensure that her parents won’t force an abortion. The complaint requests a declaration that the teen has the right to carry her pregnancy if she so chooses, and also seeks a permanent injunction barring the girl’s parents from using verbal, physical, or psychological coercion to attempt to force her to obtain an abortion. Currently, a temporary restraining order is in place, which will accomplish the same thing, until the full trial is held.
With the broad paintbrush of Roe v. Wade, the law ought to be firmly on this young girl’s side – after all, if she has essentially absolute freedom to choose to have an abortion, she logically has the same freedom to choose not to have one. Consistency has never been a strong point in pro-choice America, though, and Brian Claypool, a civil rights litigator interviewed on the matter, believes that the “overriding issue” is whether a 16-year-old is “really a woman, as contemplated in Roe v. Wade” and suggested that the courts would have the ability to involve her parents in the decision and even make their own determination as to whether she is “mentally fit” to have a baby or make that decision for herself. After all, says Claypool, “she is a minor,” and “parents know best.”
“Parents know best” is a strange mantra to employ, to be sure, when used by the same groups also fighting for unfettered access to birth control, abortifacients, and abortion for preteen girls, all without parental consent. Apparently the only parents who might “know best” are the ones who aren’t pro-life.
Sadly, while REK’s situation is a bit unusual, it isn’t unheard of. In fact, the first woman to die at the hands of abortionist LeRoy Carhart (the same doctor who was responsible for the recent death of Jennifer Morbelli) is also believed by friends to be the victim of an abortion she wouldn’t have consented to. Christin Gilbert was a young woman with Down syndrome but who functioned at a level where friends say she would have been able to give consent for an abortion, and never would have done so. Tragically, Christin died a brutal death while undergoing a late-term abortion, and the full truth may never be known.
Coercion to abort is really nothing new – a 2004 study revealed that a full 64% of women report feeling coerced to abort, a statistic that becomes more personal after finding out the mother of one of my grade school friends was forced by her own parents to abort a previous pregnancy. Because she was 17, the clinic workers accepted the parent’s consent and didn’t require the consent of the teenager, performing an abortion on her as she screamed that she wanted to keep her baby. Society has yet to learn that when the value of life and freedom is torn down for the weakest, respect for life and freedom as a whole crumbles, too.
The question of what role parents can play in their daughter’s decision to abort or carry a baby has opened a Pandora’s box of double-standards. Maybe one consistent rule would be better. No one has the right to consent to the murder of someone else. That should clear it up just fine.