Teenagers are notorious for fighting with their parents, but one Texas teen is suing her parents over an actual matter of life or death. A 16 year-old girl in Harris County who is nine weeks pregnant is suing her parents because she claims they want to force her to have an abortion.
The teen contacted the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL), a nonprofit association of pro-life attorneys, after her parents began allegedly threatening her with forcible abortion. The TCDL filed a suit on her behalf in the Harris County Civic Court February 10, claiming the parents “are violating her federal constitutional rights to carry her child to term by coercing her to have an abortion with both verbal and physical threats and harassment,” wrote Christina Ng for ABC News.
The girl told a Harris County judge that her mother suggested to the paternal grandparents that she might give the girl an abortion pill without her knowledge. The teen, who is identified only as R.E.K. because she is a minor, also said her father became very angry when he discovered the pregnancy. He allegedly said that his daughter must get an abortion, and that the decision was not hers to make.
"Her parents can not force her to have an abortion," said Joel Androphy, a legal analyst for KTRK, the ABC affiliate in Houston. "If parents force an abortion on a minor, the parents could not only be subject to civic responsibility, they could also be criminally liable under our fetal homicide laws because, not only does the minor have a right to be protected, but the fetus does under Texas law."
Fetal homicide laws are designed to protect pregnant mothers who are harmed and subsequently experience the loss of their pregnancy; they do not, however, grant inherent rights to the fetus as an individual. Texas Penal Code Ann. § 1.07 provides penalties for any individual who causes injury or death to an unborn child at every period of gestation preceding birth.
The girl and the unborn child's father wish to bring the pregnancy to term in order to raise the child themselves. The lawsuit seeks to show the girl has a constitutional right to control her pregnancy and to grant a temporary restraining order against her parents. The girl's parents withdrew her from school after discovering her pregnancy and supposedly forced her to work in order to “make her miserable so that she would give in to the coercion and have the abortion,” according to the lawsuit.
These types of disputes are not uncommon apparently. "It's not the first case in Texas and these cases are very, very under reported," Stephen Casey of the TCDL told KIII News in January.
At that time, Casey was representing a pregnant 14 year-old girl in Corpus Christi whose relatives also sought to force an abortion upon the girl. This unnamed girl filed a suit against her family December 2012, after her grandmother supposedly scheduled an appointment for her to receive an abortion and one of her cousins allegedly physically assaulted her when she refused to go.
The girl's grandmother, Carmen Pantoja, claims the allegations are false. "I advised her to have [the abortion]. That's not the same as forcing her," she told ABC News. "Nobody forced her do anything." The teen has not decided whether to keep the child or give it up for adoption after birth, Casey told CNN
Judge Missy Medary with the 347th District Court in Corpus Christi appointed a guardian for the teen girl, and she now lives with another unnamed relative.
Casey and the TCDL seem optimistic about winning the case in Harris County, as they have won similar cases in the past. "These girls are in a bind," said Casey. "She should expect support from [her parents] in this situation, not resentment and anger."