Pregnant Houston teen wins life-affirming case against parents
Judge’s ruling forces parents to cease any coercion of daughter to have abortion.
February 19th, 2013 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
HOUSTON—A judge on Monday (Feb. 18) granted an injunction against the parents of a pregnant teen who alleged they were forcing her through intimidation and threats of violence to have an abortion. Stephen Casey, an attorney representing the 16-year-old girl, said she and the teenage father of the baby are both relieved by the decision of Judge James Lombardino of the 308th Harris County Family Court that frees her to carry the pregnancy to term without coercion from her parents.
“We are very proud of our teenage client for being strong enough to stand against her parents to save her unborn child’s life,” said Greg Terra in a press release issued by the Texas Center for Defense of Life. Terra and Casey, founders of the Texas organization, represented the girl known in court documents as R.E.K.
Taking the Roe vs. Wade decision and “turning it on its head” as he put it, Casey argued the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand also provides women the right to choose life for their unborn babies. A 1979 case, Bellotti vs. Baird, gave minors the right to choose abortion or life.
Casey admits there is an irony in using the 1972 abortion case to champion a pro-life cause. But he likened the situation to David’s defeat of Goliath.
“It was Goliath’s sword. It wasn’t something David crafted. He used what was there,” Casey told the TEXAN.
A family member of the teenage father sought legal assistance for R.E.K. after discovering she was being pressured by her parents to terminate the pregnancy. Court documents reveal a contentious relationship erupted between R.E.K. following the discovery of her pregnancy by her parents in mid-January. The teen’s mom reportedly suggested slipping an abortion pill into a drink for her daughter. On Feb. 8, according to court documents, the teen’s father sent her a text message telling her she “needs an a--whoopin’.”
Casey obtained a temporary restraining order against the parents Feb. 12. The case for the injunction was heard Monday afternoon.
“[Her parents] agreed not to coerce her to have an abortion for the duration of her pregnancy,” Casey said following the hearing.
The parents of both teens agreed in the final order to equally share financial responsibility for medical care related to the pregnancy. If the teens get married the financial burden will fall to them. R.E.K.’s parents, the defendants in the case, gave “irrevocable consent” for their daughter to marry the father of her baby. Under a 2005 Texas law, teens as young as 16 can marry with parental consent.
Texas minors can circumvent parental consent and seek judicial intervention when determining whether or not to have an abortion. Pro-life proponents and their legal advocates claim a majority of abortions are performed on minors who are unaware they can deny consent to the procedure. The Texas Center for Defense of Life provides pro bono legal aid to pro-life organizations and women under pressure to terminate their pregnancies.
Those who coerce women to have an abortion violate state and national laws, the attorneys said.
The mother of R.E.K., who indicated she had undergone four abortions, reportedly said an abortion for her daughter was “the right thing to do.” Initial intervention efforts temporarily quelled the situation. When those measures failed Terra and Casey were called on for help.
“A lawsuit is the nuclear option,” Casey told the TEXAN last week after filing the temporary restraining order.
Allan Parker, executive director of the Texas Justice Foundation, said the issuance of a “Dear Parent Letter” usually pacifies parents’ aggression. Created by the TJF, a San Antonio based non-profit that provides legal assistance for clients like R.E.K., the letter outlines the rights pregnant minors possess. Minors “old enough to get pregnant” can take their case before a judge to keep or abort their babies, he said.
But most minors wanting to keep their babies do not know the law is on their side. The “Dear Parent Letter” effectively lays out the case on their behalf.
In part, it reads: “Dear Parent … You (or any other person) may not force, coerce, or pressure your daughter to have an abortion. Besides criminal prosecution … you and the abortionist could be held liable for the various civil torts, such as battery, negligence, false imprisonment, or other claims.” The letter is used by more than 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers across the nation. Parker credits the letter with saving several thousand unborn babies each year.
Parents usually back down from their intimidating efforts once they learn of the legal ramifications, Parker said. When the fighting stops more reasoned and life-affirming decisions can be addressed.
Though court intervention is the last resort, the goal is always to bring the family together and not further alienate the daughter from her parents. The reconciliation of the family is a priority in all cases, according to pro-life advocates.
R.E.K., who had lived with her boyfriend’s parents for several months prior to this case, now lives with her mother. Under the ruling, R.E.K. must maintain a “B” average in school in order to have unrestricted use of her vehicle.