April 3rd through 10th was designated National Coerced Abortion Awareness Week to raise awareness about how many women are forced, coerced, and pressured into aborting their babies. While coercion is assumed to be illegal, no law in Texas explicitly prohibits the coercion of abortion. Texas Right to Life has authored a bill that would change that.
House Bill 2828 by State Representative William Callegari (R-Katy) and Senate Bill 1183 by Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) criminalize coercing or forcing a woman into an abortion. Safeguards will be implemented at abortion clinics to make women aware of their rights against coercion. Reports indicate that nationally, 64% of abortions are either unwanted or coerced, meaning the mother did not want to end her baby’s life but was threatened or forced into the abortion.
The proposed legislation would require clinics and abortionists to screen for coercion. If a woman shares that she is being forced into the procedure, the doctor cannot proceed and must offer her a phone in a private room. Numbers for law enforcement, abuse hotlines, and women’s shelters will be made readily available to her. Signs will also be posted in every patient waiting area at clinics, informing women that no one has a right to force them into the abortion.
In commemoration of National Coerced Abortion Awareness Week, many stories have been published that outline the abuse suffered by pregnant women. Christine Weideman from Pasco, WA, recounted the pressure she faced to abort. She was sixteen years old, and her boyfriend told her abortion was her only option.
“I went to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test. They told me I was pregnant then asked me if I wanted to schedule an abortion. Five minutes hadn’t passed since I learned that was pregnant — I was still in shock and processing — when they asked me if I wanted to go ahead and schedule an abortion. The lady was very cold. I was just one of millions to her. She could not care less about me.”
Christine’s story continues with her being pressured to abort by her parents, boyfriend, and even friends. Planned Parenthood offered her no other choices, other than a way to get the state of Washington to pay for it. Prior to the abortion, Christine asked to see the ultrasound being performed, but was denied that right.
After the abortion, she faced years of suicidal thoughts, depression, nightmares, and a second unwanted abortion. “The second time I found I was pregnant, everyone was again pressuring me to choose abortion, even after seeing what the first one did to me.” Her mother went with her for the second one and told her they were not leaving “until you’ve had an abortion.”
Another woman testifying before a New Jersey Senate hearing lamented her abortion into which she was pressured by her boyfriend and the abortion clinic staff. Darlene Dunn did not want the abortion and procrastinated the decision for weeks. Dunn said she was never given any kind of information about fetal development, alternatives to abortion, or the physical and emotional ramifications of abortion. She was then forced to travel to New York to undergo a late term abortion, never offered any other options or counseling or hope. Nobody was immediately around her to help her through her pain.
Another story from an anonymous woman details her saga about being pressured to abort her child. She told the clinic worker that she wanted to keep her baby, but was told that her notions were “romantic” and to make the appointment as soon as possible. She chose abortion, never telling her parents. Like the two other women, this young woman experienced traumatic emotional distress following the abortion—severe detachment and a sense of loss, but she also suffered extreme physical pain and bleeding.
Each of these precious women felt as though their situations would have been different had they been given the opportunity to continue their pregnancies and keep their babies. Each suffered intense emotional pain from the abortion they were forced to undergo. These women feel the need to speak up for the girls who are pressured to abort their babies because “it’s their only choice.”
Through HB 2828 and SB 1183, Texas Right to Life is working to protect the life of the mother and that of the unborn child from the pain and devastation of an unwanted abortion. The Texas House State Affairs committee considered and voted the bill out on April 6, 2011. Many from pregnancy centers all over Texas testified before the committee and shared stories of personal experiences in dealing with coerced abortions. Representative Callegari and the women clearly demonstrated the need for law, passionately convincing that coercion is real, and current Texas law is not sufficient in protecting the lives of both the mother and the unborn child from unwanted abortions.