I Help Teenage Girls Get Abortions


On Thursday, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a sweeping abortion measure, my heart broke for all of what my Republican uncle in Lubbock calls “my girls.” “My girls” are Texas minors seeking to terminate a pregnancy through the judicial bypass process. For the past six years, I have managed a legal hotline called Jane’s Due Process. Primarily, we help minors from across Texas navigate the obstacle course known as the Texas judicial bypass law—or Chapter 33 cases, as our referral attorneys call them. I personally have assisted more than a thousand minors who have called our 24/7 hotline in search of help to terminate a pregnancy.

I have heard so many stories of abandonment, threats of being kicked out, threats of physical harm or harm to the boyfriends, families breaking up or falling on hard times, and parents with life-threatening diseases. Stories that burn into your psyche and spur bubbling rage when you hear Texas legislators callously decide to make rape or incest victims carry pregnancies to term, or close all but five of the roughly 40 abortion clinics in Texas. Basically, the bill would wipe out all abortion providers west of Interstate 35.

At the bill’s signing, Gov. Perry was praised by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), the sponsor of the anti-abortion bill, known as HB 2. Laubenberg became an overnight sensation when during a debate on the bill she said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.” Laubenberg said Perry would be known for “eternity” for his work.

Yet, all I can think about is the here and now—how to set up a transportation line to get minors, as well as all others seeking abortions—to a clinic that will survive the draconian targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws.

When Gov. Perry signed HB 2, my heart especially broke for one girl and one baby. I picked up a minor this month to get her to court for a judicial bypass case. She is taking care of a baby she had nine months ago, a preemie who spent months in the neonatal unit and needs around-the-clock care. This minor has not left her house for months. She is in constant fear the Medicaid-provided nurses will screw up her baby’s tracheostomy. As is true with so many of my cases, this minor was kicked off Medicaid 90 days after her delivery and thus was not eligible for state-funded family planning services. Texas has the highest rate of repeat teen births in the country and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates. This girl had the doubly bad luck to have a dad incarcerated for drug dealing and a mom suffering from schizophrenia. She has no family on which to fall back. She is alone. She would like to graduate from high school and go on to nursing school, but she is scared that being away from her house could allow undue harm to her baby.

As I watched the healthy and prosperous politicians at the bill signing, I couldn’t help but think they live in a parallel universe far different from that of the minors who call our hotline. One in four of our clients is an orphan or orphan de facto. One in five of our clients already has been pregnant at least once, which is not really surprising because Texas’ family planning network has been dismantled, and parental consent is required at many of the clinics that remain open.

It is for those reasons I ask Gov. Perry, Rep. Laubenberg, and anyone else who wants to outlaw abortion: Where are you when desperate folks are in desperate situations? Will you be there to remove the tracheostomy tube and clean the stoma? Will you make sure it is “cleaned out” so my girls can finish their education? Won’t you lavish some of your compassion on my girls?

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  • bestgrandmaever

    Heartless Republicans….

  • http://www.writinginflow.blogspot.com/ Beverly Diehl

    Thank you for what you are doing. Yes, it would be better if teens had active, involved parents, and postponed their sexual activity, then used effective and affordable birth control if and when they did engage in sex, but we don’t live in that world. The girl you write about breaks my heart; I can’t see that it benefits ANYONE to *make* her bear another baby she can’t care for, when she already has so much on her plate. She *needs* a stable home, a mother figure, and birth control, but all Texas wants to offer her is shame.

    • fiona64

      The girl you write about breaks my heart; I can’t see that it benefits
      ANYONE to *make* her bear another baby she can’t care for, when she
      already has so much on her plate.

      It’s never about the fetus or the child (as we all know); it’s about punishing women for their sexuality. In the case of this young girl, I suspect that she did not have access to appropriate, comprehensive sex education … or effective contraception. So, of course, she should be “punished” by being a mother twice over … and then punished some more as these same GOP lawmakers target her as a “welfare queen” and a “taker.” Ugh.

      • http://www.writinginflow.blogspot.com/ Beverly Diehl

        I’d be willing to place a bet she did not have access to appropriate, comprehensive sex ed, either. In a perfect world she would not have a father in jail and a mother who’s schizophrenic, she would have had SOMEBODY to give her protection and guidance as she became a teenager – but she didn’t have those things. The pro-birthers are all about shame and punishment, and NOT about what is best for chidlren.

  • disqus_I9ERiegRth

    I appreciate what you do but your example puzzles me. If this girl cannot leave her house because she is caring for a special needs infant, how did she get pregnant again?

    • lyssamae

      The author said the woman didn’t leave the house, not that no one else came in.

    • Helena Inviere

      I don’t think it’s stated that she got pregnant a second time. But she’s still susceptible to rape or, well, men in general.

  • Ted Escott

    It is the same old story, the “so called” Christians are never there to, provide health care, nutrition or meaningful guidance to the pregnant teens, they are only capable of chastising
    and creating impossible hurdles to interfere with Women’s health care issues. I think Gandhi said he like Christ but did not like Chistians, because they where so unlike our Christ, and the holier than thou legislatures in Texas seem to fit the bill nicely!~~

    • http://www.writinginflow.blogspot.com/ Beverly Diehl

      In all fairness, a handful of pro-birthers do adopt and become foster parents. However, that doesn’t mean that many THOUSANDS of others languish in the foster care system every year, some severely disabled or otherwise “unappealing.”

      • Valde

        Black babies are cheaper than white babies by about 10k. That right there should tell us something.

  • Chris Herz

    I volunteer to smuggle Ru 486 into Texas.

  • Don

    Praise God teen age girls are prevented from murdering their babies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ephemeralburstsoflightwithchanceofrain Olivia Spencer

      Well, apparently you aren’t praising God that they don’t have enough food, shelter, or money to care for the babies. When are all of the Christians going to start protesting that women don’t have enough food, shelter, or money to help the poor children? I haven’t seen a protest about that yet.

      Get off your moral high horse.

      • Krista Mitchell

        THANK YOU! This is the point I always try to drive home. I am pro-choice, but honestly I can understand why people are against abortion. Not wanting fetuses/babies to die is an understandable argument. However, unless you are advocating better sex education, easy and affordable access to birth control, and lots of options and support for women on welfare who need monetary help to actually raise the child, I’m calling BS on you being “pro-life”. You are pro-shame. Birth control is the only statistically proven way to lower the amount of abortions; the legality changes nothing, except to increase the rate of injury to women AND birth defects.

        • Valde

          Meh they think that once the baby is born, it’s ‘on it’s own’

          They don’t even think pre-natal care should be government funded – which SAVES those precious fetal lives.

    • Diane Perry

      You conveniently forget that your gawd is the biggest murderer of all time. Good thing for all of humanity that it doesn’t actually exist. Go cram your bible up your ass – it will do just as much good there as it does in your hands.

      • HeilMary1

        Amen!

    • Diane Perry

      Oh, and Don? Until you grow a uterus, kindly shut the fvck up.

    • Ella Warnock

      Oh yes, praise gawd for saving the babies. Well, not the starving Sudanese babies. Apparently he only cares about American babies of teen moms. The rest of them can go hang.

      • Judy Jackson

        Gawd doesn’t save the American babies of teen moms OR the teen moms. Much like the GOP. This has NOTHING to do with saving babies & EVERYTHING to do with shaming women.

    • belgianchic

      *praise god teenage girls are forced to undergo dangerous abortions and die horrible and preventable deaths. don’t like that, huh?

    • Arekushieru

      …so says a MAN who can never GET pregnant, but who CAN rape a teen aged girl and not have to worry about the consequences. …So says a MAN who can never get pregnant, but is willing to force a teenager to complete a pregnancy after she has been raped, then call himself Godly. No, sir, what YOU are is the sickest excuse for humanity I have EVER seen in a long time. You would be right up there with HITLER or slave-owners, I dare say.

  • Divine Oubliette

    And my services will no doubt be needed even more, herbal abortions can be safe and can work but only if it’s done early and done with the appropriate respect and caution for the herbs in use.

    Its despeciable that in 2013 the road to to a safe, effective and legal abortion is cut off from the women in our state, more and more will turn to Miso and herbs, which can be more dangerous if not utilized correctly and have a higher failure rate with the added complication of birth defects if the pregnancy isn’t terminated.

  • xanaxnation

    :::goosebumps::: how do I help? seriously, how do I get involved?

  • Judy Jackson

    How do we help?

  • belgianchic

    Thank you for all that you do.

  • megan

    this conversation is truly heartbreaking. i don’t think any of you really understand what the pro-life stance is about. it’s about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…and that that right should be extended to even the most helpless of our citizens. i can understand there are many reasons that women would want to have an abortion, many of them are quite legitimate and understandable! however, if we as a nation cannot protect the least among us, then who are we? also, i would argue the fact that abortion is a true solution for young girls who have been through trauma. while it creates a temporary fix, it’s undoubtably adding to the trauma to then rip that child from her womb. as far as christians not doing anything to fix this problem…please do some research. there are many, many adoption agencies, pregnancy counseling centers, homes for pregnant and disadvantaged women etc etc that are run by christians. non-profit, for the good of their fellow man. i personally know of one in my hometown that counsels the families of the pregnant girls, helps with maternity and baby clothes, food, expenses, care, education and support. they follow along with them through their pregnancies and also direct them to adoption agencies if that is what they choose to do. these are volunteer based, non-profit organizations and i can promise you there is one or more where you live too. so to say that christians and conservatives simply want to ban the act of abortion and leave the women helpless, struggling to care for their children is false. i also know of a pro-life organization that offers free ultrasounds and recently a member of this organization actually adopted one of the babies that was intended for an abortion. didn’t that story end so much better for the mom!? isn’t she much more capable of true healing and a fresh start now as opposed to that abortion haunting her for years? i can tell you that i would adopt a baby like that in a heartbeat if i had the opportunity. i would just encourage all of you to read what people are actually doing before you condemn it, because there ARE people out there helping these girls.

    • jan stewart

      so instead of a clean quick procedure you condem a woman to heartache and trauma for the rest of her life………..as well as the child she brought into the world……so where is it NOT about punishment?

    • cjvg

      You really think being forced to stay pregnant and go through childbirth is a ‘healing’ experience?!

      I was an adult and the American hospital birth of my first child was the most traumatizing demeaning and dehumanizing experience I have ever had!
      No wonder American women suffer from birth trauma, PTSD, and post partum depression in unprecedented numbers.

      I certainly do not believe that a teen would be treated with more respect!

    • belgianchic

      okay, for starters, not all women are haunted for years after having an abortion. Most women, in fact are not. 90 % of women experience relief after a termination. Just like not every woman experiences relief, not every woman experiences regret. It’s personal. Second, adoption is an alternative to parenting, not pregnancy. It doesn’t solve the problem of the woman not wanting to be pregnant.