A San Antonio mother and child were murdered in late February because a brave young woman refused her teenage boyfriend’s coercion to undergo an abortion. Dawanna Thomas was harassed by her preborn child’s father, Courtney Velasquez, who repeatedly insisted that Thomas kill the child in an abortion. Ultimately, the child was killed, along with her mother, in an act of violence that left the community stunned. Courtney Velasquez, 19, allegedly drowned the young mother before setting her body on fire to hide the evidence.
In between the drowning and burning, a relative says that Velasquez confessed the crime to him, saying, “I can’t believe I did it!” Thanks to that relative, authorities were notified and Velasquez was arrested when a crew arrived to douse the flames. Thomas’ mother, Tear Bedford, is grieving the loss of her daughter and the baby who was her first grandchild. “(Velasquez) didn't want nothing to do with the baby,” Tear said, “he kept calling me saying he wanted to get an abortion. I said we don't believe in abortion. I said my baby is going to have the baby.”
In the state of Texas, both the death of Thomas and the death of her preborn child are recognized as homicides. Velasquez, therefore, is charged with the capital murder of both individuals. The law that recognizes Thomas’ preborn child as a homicide victim is called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The provision ensures that, in cases where a pregnant mother is violently attacked, her preborn child is recognized as a human person who unjustly lost his or her life.
The law is a step toward the eventual acknowledgment and affirmation that all human life must be defended. The irony remains that the direct act of aggression in abortion, aimed explicitly at killing the preborn child, is not recognized as a criminal act of violence or prosecuted as homicide. The American legal system remains deluded by the notion that a child’s wantedness by the mother determines his or her value.
Adding to the tragedy of this case is the fact that preventative measures could have been in place to preempt the violence that was committed. Many abortions are undergone by mothers who are severely coerced into the choice by a partner. Exacerbating matters, abortion advocates celebrate a bizarre notion of “bro-choice,” the sentiment of men who support abortion. Some critics have rightly pointed out the psychosis of praising so-called “bro-choice” men, because abortion is so often the means men use, at times through coercing their partners, to escape the responsibility of fatherhood.
Velasquez’s coercion of his pregnant girlfriend should be criminalized by Texas just as his act of double homicide has been. This legislative session, Texas Right to Life is helping to ensure that coercion is recognized as a criminal offense and that vulnerable mothers are informed. The Coerced Abortion Prevention Act, HB 1648 and SB 831, addresses the rampant problem of women being pressured and coerced into abortion against their wishes. Deaths like that of Dawanna Thomas and her preborn daughter may be prevented if harassment and coercion can be punished before situations escalate.
Contact your legislator here to voice your support for this Life-saving legislation.