A Texas teen is highlighting another aspect of choice with a court case against her parents, demanding the right to carry her pregnancy to term. R.E.K., 16, won a restraining order against her separated parents in an attempt to protect herself from their attempts to coerce her to have an abortion, and the case has attracted considerable attention in the media, because it touches on a number of hot-button issues.
In conservative Texas, many pregnant women feel that abortion is not an appropriate option for them even if they may have concerns about the timing of the pregnancy. This teen isn’t the first, or the last, to exercise her right to choose to carry her pregnancy and raise the baby, rather than electing for abortion or adoption. Her parents, however, didn’t support her decision, highlighting the power imbalance that can arise between teens and their parents.
While parents are technically permitted to make medical decisions on behalf of their children, most doctors prefer cooperative, engaged patients who take part in the decision-making process. And when it comes to abortion, courts have affirmed that parents do not have the right to compel children to get abortions — or to force their children to carry pregnancies to term — given that pregnancy is such an intimate and emotional issue.
R.E.K. claimed her parents attempted emotional intimidation and coercion, threatened to take her to a facility for an abortion against her will, and conspired to slip her RU-486, a medication that causes abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. If the allegations made in the eight pages of documents are true, they make for a chilling story of a teen struggling to go against her parents and do what she thinks is right for herself.
She called on a conservative anti-choice organization, the Texas Center for Defense of Life, for help with her case. The group has successfully represented other teens in similar situations and appears to be making headway with her case, using it as yet another promotional opportunity for the work it does. And yet another chance to paint people who support the right to choose with the same brush, suggesting that all reproductive rights advocates would support forcing an abortion on a young woman who doesn’t want one, or that doctors and other clinicians would provide an abortion to an unwilling patient in violation of both the law and medical ethics.
Particularly in Texas, where there are considerable barriers to accessing abortion services, it’s highly unlikely her parents would have succeeded in compelling her to have the procedure at all, but her fears are understandable. For teens defying their parents with a major life decision, it can be incredibly frightening to speak up.
She could easily have gone to a pro-choice organization for help as well, and it’s telling that she chose the anti-choice route; in Texas, as in many other regions of the world, the social understanding of the reproductive rights movement is as a coathanger-armed crowd ready to charge forth and murder innocent babies, which is a huge tragedy. Cases like this should never happen, and young women who need support while they decide how to handle a pregnancy should feel comfortable seeking assistance from people with the resources to help them — like pro-choice groups that offer prenatal care, counseling and assistance to pregnant teens.
Image credit: mahalie stackpole