In Texas, a 16-year-old girl sued her parents who were pressuring her to abort her pregnancy. She won her case.
While the pressure itself is not illegal (and shouldn’t be, even though it sucks), some of the extreme methods of coercion on which the parents unfortunately relied definitely should be illegal, because these are consistent violations of the daughter’s right to bodily autonomy. The girl’s mother threatened to slip her the morning after pill, which is horrendous, and slipping anyone medication against their will should amount to jail time. The father threatened to physically abuse her, which should also amount to even more jail time. Both parents wanted to take away her phone and her car.
Considering the fact that they pulled her out of school to take two jobs, their concern seems financial. I suppose they are worried their daughter is destroying her life. (She also wants to marry the 16-year-old kid who would be the child’s father, for the record, and he’s agreed.) However, I have no credit to give them for this: it seems if whether her life is destroyed were truly their concern the last thing they would do is deprive her of her resources.
Which brings me to my next point: it is inarguably WRONG, and illegal, to slip the girl medication or physically assault her. But what’s also wrong is to take away things that have been given to her.
I don’t doubt that she probably didn’t buy the car or the phone with her own money. And that is the number one excuse parents always use to take things away from their children. It is also the only excuse that applies unfairly and exclusively to children: if you give someone else–anyone else–a gift, you can not demand it back as soon as they’ve ceased to please you.
This isn’t just legally true, it is also true by social expectations and conventions. Unless you are a child, in which case you have no right to property. Think for a moment about how truly atrocious that is: there is nothing that belongs to you. In a moment anything can be taken away; it is enough to strip a child of not only their sense of security but to an extent of defining their identity.
The parents might cut off the insurance for the car, or stop paying for the monthly phone bill, but they cannot take away the car or phone itself or her direct access to these things. These were gifts from the parents to their daughter, which means that now they are HERS. They are now her property.
What she sued for was to secure access to what was already hers.
This post isn’t just about a woman’s right to choose, or about the incredible violation her parents have committed by denying her that choice, but about child rights. This girl is legally still a child, and thanks to anti-choicers’ (and some pro-choicers) insistence that minors have to notify their parents about medical decisions concerning pregnancies, she is subjected to the tyranny of her parents as intermediaries to her right to bodily autonomy.
Her decision to marry her boyfriend is a bad one–I genuinely believe this. I sense that her parents won’t be much financial support to her, so she will have to work instead of going to school–another really bad decision. These decisions are still, however, hers. The right way to handle the situation would have been to sit her down and have a long talk about all potential outcomes so that she would make an informed decision, and, if she really is determined to carry the pregnancy to term, the healthiest thing to do is offer enough support that she may recover from any mistakes while still taking full responsibility for them.