“This is a tremendous victory and another life has been saved,” said Greg Terra, an attorney and president of the Austin-based Texas Center for the Defense of Life in a statement. “Our victory today stands for the principle that ‘choice’ goes both ways. Under Roe v. Wade and post-Roe cases, a teenage girl has the absolute legal right to choose life, even over the strong objections, pressure, and punishments of her parents.”
He added that “we are very proud of our teenage client for being strong enough to stand against her parents to save her unborn child’s life.”
Last year Terra's group represented a 14-year-old from Corpus Christi who alleged that her family was forcing her to have an abortion, a case eventually settled with a confidential agreement.
Abortion-rights activists say the latest case illustrates the importance of a woman’s right to choose — abortion or not. It comes at a time when Planned Parenthood is fighting to remain part of the state's Women's Health Program after the state won a court fight to remove clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
Stephen Casey, chief counsel with the nonprofit Texas center, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the girl plans to marry her boyfriend -- the father of her child -- and that "there's some progress" in mending fences with her parents. The girl was referred to the center by her boyfriend's mother, he said.
“She chose life,” Casey said, and after the agreement she was “very happy with the result and comfortable with her abilities” moving forward, despite the unexpected pregnancy.
“My client’s viewpoint is that her baby shouldn’t be killed through abortion as a consequence" of her unexpected pregnancy, Casey said.
"She didn't know what rights she had," he said. “When girls out there hear this, they’re empowered to be moms.”
The 16-year-old girl, identified in the lawsuit as “R.E.K.,” said that after she revealed she was pregnant, her mother threatened to "slip [the teen] an abortion pill," took her phone and car and kept her home from school to punish her for refusing to have an abortion.
According to the lawsuit, the woman told her daughter that she was "making the biggest mistake of her life" by choosing to have the child and that she herself had undergone numerous abortions.
The girl's parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother.
The girl’s father, according to the lawsuit, told her he "was going to look into canceling" her health insurance and sent her a text saying she "needs an ass whoopin'.”
Both parents allegedly told the girl, now 10 weeks pregnant, that she could "continue to live in misery" in their home or "have the abortion and tell everyone it was a miscarriage," according to the lawsuit.
The parents are named in the court order, but are not being identified by The Times to protect the girl’s identity. The parents have denied the allegations, according to court records. Their attorney was not available Tuesday, staff said.
On Monday, the family appeared in a Houston court, where the parents agreed to a judge’s injunction barring them from forcing their daughter to have an abortion. They also agreed 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 legal age to marry in Texas is 16 with parental consent).
The girl’s boyfriend told CNN that they never considered abortion.
"We were always determined to have the baby," Evan Madison, 16, told CNN's Piers Morgan.
Heather Busby, executive director of Austin-based NARAL Pro Choice Texas told The Times the R.E.K. case does not set any new or troubling precedent.
“We support this woman and every young woman’s decision, whatever their decision is about their pregnancy,” she said. “It’s a victory for women’s reproductive health. It confirms that women should have the ability to determine what happens to their bodies and what happens with a pregnancy, no matter what the choice is.”