HOUSTON—Harris County Family Court Judge James Lombardino will hear the case on Monday (Feb. 18) of a pregnant 16-year-old who claims her parents are coercing her to have an abortion. Attorney Stephen Casey, who represents the minor on behalf of the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL), said the parents’ actions are illegal. He is seeking a restraining order against them, defending the girl’s right to refuse an abortion.
A temporary restraining order was issued on Feb. 12.
Under Texas law minors can circumvent parental consent and seek judicial help 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.
Casey said the Harris County teen contends her parents are compelling her “through emotional and psychological abuse and threats of physical violence” to end her pregnancy. Allan Parker, executive director of the Texas Justice Foundation, said a family member of the baby’s father contacted him on behalf of the young mother. Initial intervention efforts temporarily quelled the situation. When those measures failed the case was referred to TCDL.
“A lawsuit is the nuclear option,” Casey said. He partners with Greg Terra at TCDL in providing pro bono legal aid to those facing a forced abortion. Casey is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He said the purpose of TCDL is to “bring peace and bring people together” in an effort to save the life of the unborn baby and reconcile the family.
The issuance of a “Dear Parent Letter” usually pacifies parents’ aggression. Created by the Texas Justice Foundation, a San Antonio-based non-profit that provides legal assistance for young women like Casey’s client, the letter outlines the rights pregnant minors possess. Parker contends the 1972 Roe vs. Wade decision did not give women the right to an abortion, but the right to choose an abortion. The converse is equally true. Pregnant women who want to keep their babies cannot be forced against their will to terminate a pregnancy. Minors “old enough to get pregnant” can take their case before a judge to keep or abort their babies, he said.
But most minors wishing to keep their babies do not know the law is on their side. The “Dear Parent Letter” 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 over 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers across the nation. Parker credits the letter with saving several thousand unborn babies each year.
“It’s effective in 95 percent of the cases,” Parker said.
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.
But that is not always the case.
Parker said the “Dear Parent Letter” was effective at the outset of the Harris County case but circumstances deteriorated and legal counsel was obtained.
Court intervention is the last resort, the goal being always to bring the family together and not further alienate the daughter from her parents.
“We get the chance to deal with them spiritually,” Parker said.
The reconciliation of the family is a priority in all cases. Though circumstances deteriorated to the point of seeking legal counsel and a court order, the relationship between the Harris County 16-year-old and her parents is no longer untenable and she is living at home with her parents.
“As it should be,” Casey said.
Parker said the family of the baby’s father is reportedly involved in the case, providing encouragement for the young mother.
The case is scheduled for court hearing 2 p.m. Monday in the 308th Harris County District Court.