Reproductive freedom also means choosing not to have an abortion

A Texas teenager successfully sues for the right to carry her pregnancy to term

Topics: Abortion, Reproductive choice, Texas, Women's Health, Pro-choice, Editor's Picks, Feminism,

Reproductive freedom also means choosing not to have an abortion (Credit: Yaromir via Shutterstock)

In Texas this week, a pregnant teenage girl and her lawyers won a victory for reproductive freedom. She’s been granted the right to not have an abortion.

The teen, who was 10 weeks pregnant and known in court documents only as R.E.K., recently sued her parents for trying to strong-arm her into having an abortion. According to the suit, the girl’s mother threatened to “slip [the teen] an abortion pill,” took away her phone and her car, and kept her home from school because she refused to have an abortion. The mother also allegedly told her she was “making the biggest mistake of her life” by going forward with the pregnancy. Her father, meanwhile, allegedly told her he “was going to look into canceling” her health insurance and said she “needs an ass whoopin’.” The girl also says he told her “he was going to take her to have an abortion and that the decision was his, end of story.”  Oh, look, a man saying he’s got the right to make choices about a woman’s body. How refreshing. And that’s when she got the Texas Center for the Defense of Life involved.

The parents, who are divorced, deny the teen’s claims, but this week they agreed to the judge’s order that they not force her into abortion. They also consented to “let her keep using her car, pay for her phone bill and part of her medical insurance, and allow her to marry her boyfriend.” The boyfriend told CNN Tuesday, “We were always determined to have the baby.”

The case, though significant, is not the first of its kind. Last year, the Texas Center for the Defense of Life represented a 14-year-old girl in a similar situation, in a case that was eventually settled in a confidential agreement. And in the Nevada Supreme Court last fall, County District Judge Egan Walker tussled with the adoptive parents of a mentally disabled 32-year-old woman with severe health issues over whether he could order her to have abortion. Ultimately, the court sided with the woman’s Catholic parents, and determined that she would proceed with her pregnancy.

The Nevada case was controversial – and highly murky – because it involved a pregnant woman who was incapable of making a reasoned decision for herself. The Texas case, though it involves a minor, is less so. As it should be. On Wednesday, I spoke to my friend and former colleague Amy Benfer, who has personal experience of being 16 and pregnant. As she puts it aptly, “Oh, hell, yes, she should be able to make the choice.”

In a more enlightened world, this could have been just a story about a girl exercising her basic rights. It wouldn’t have become a cause that an antiabortion group would seize upon, giving it the opportunity to crow, as Center for the Defense of Life’s Greg Terra did to the L.A. Times, “This is a tremendous victory and another life has been saved. We are very proud of our teenage client for being strong enough to stand against her parents to save her unborn child’s life.” It wouldn’t be a victory for an organization dedicated to “aggressively defending the sanctity of human life.” It wouldn’t be about the fetus at all.

Benfer says, “There is no difference between this case and any of the cases in which girls have fought to receive an abortion without parental consent.” But she added, “If anything, it reinforces once again the idea that the youngest and poorest girls are the ones most likely to have their reproductive rights taken away.”

The antiabortion side would like you to believe that we’re all ruthless baby-killers here on the side of our constitutionally protected rights. But this week, NARAL Pro Choice Texas’ Heather Busby called the decision “a victory for women’s reproductive health,” adding, “Women should have the ability to determine what happens to their bodies and what happens with a pregnancy.” And if we believe in reproductive freedom, if we truly support a woman’s right to choose, then that means supporting all her choices. Not for the sake of the baby. For the sake of the mother.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>