My mother’s “birds and bees” talk began and ended with this simple directive: “Don’t bring no babies home because I’m not trying to take care of any.” She meant that. And I was real clear about it. I was to get a college degree. A career. Love. Marriage. And then babies. In that order. She never said it, but I have no doubts that if I’d have messed up her order of things and come home with a baby in my belly, Bettye would have tried to go out like the parents of the pregnant Texas girl who sued her mom and dad for allegedly trying to force her to have an abortion.
I mean, I can’t be sure that this would have been my mom’s reaction. But it sure didn’t seem far-fetched at the time. Which was more than enough for me to keep my legs closed and my books open. Apparently, that hard-line parental message didn’t really get through in time enough for the pregnant Texas girl, who claimed in a lawsuit that after she revealed she was pregnant, her mother took her phone and car and kept her home from school as punishment for refusing to have an abortion, and even threatened to “slip” her an abortion pill. Dad weighed in, according to the lawsuit, by telling the pregnant teen she “needs an ass whoopin’,” and that he was going to “look into canceling” her health insurance. Their ultimatum for their daughter, now 10 weeks pregnant? “Continue to live in misery” at her mom’s home or “have an abortion and tell everyone it was a miscarriage,” the lawsuit said.
Yesterday, attorneys for the teen announced they negotiated an agreement allowing the girl to keep the baby. Her attorney, Greg Terra, hailed the agreement as a victory for both his client and her “absolute legal right to choose life, even over the strong objections, pressure and punishments of her parents.”
I couldn’t agree more with Terra, who also serves as the president of the Austin-based Texas Center for the Defense of Life. The girl does deserve the right to CHOOSE life. Actually, I find it quite humorous that in defending his teen client’s right to have her baby, Terra’s hollering choice—a word that anti-abortion advocates never really give the respect it’s due when we’re talking about a woman’s right to “choose” not to be a mother. Oh, those pesky semantics. Shout out to Terra for helping to advance the arguments of Roe vs. Wade and pro-choice groups the world over, just as Planned Parenthood is fighting to remain a part of the state’s Women’s Health Program, despite a recent court victory giving Texas the right to remove clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers—a move that takes away CHOICE for Texas’s teens and women.
“We support this woman and every young woman’s decision, whatever their decision is about their pregnancy,” Heather Busby, executive director of the Austin-based NARAL Pro Choice Texas told The Los Angeles Times. “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.”
Of course, I hope that in choosing life, that little girl is ready to take care of one. Because while that pregnant Texas girl can drop the lawsuit against her parents, call off the anti-abortion hounds and have the courts make her mom and dad pay her phone bill and part of her medical insurance and allow her to keep using her car and marry her boyfriend, she can’t make her parents buy or change diapers, warm up bottles, soothe the baby in the middle of the night, babysit, clothe or otherwise provide financial, physical or emotional support for a child they did not create. Choice, you see, comes with consequences. That much, my mother made very clear. Seems like the pregnant girl’s parents, no matter how misguided and foul they were being, are clear on this, too. All I have to say is, “Get ready boo.”
1. When It Comes to Teen Pregnancy and Sex, CDC Confirms: Teenagers Are Morons
2. How An Unplanned Pregnancy Changed The Way I Want To Talk To My Kids About Sex
3. Facebook Pregnancy Pact: Black Teens Proudly Show Off Group Baby Bumps
4. Roe v. Wade At 40: Pondering Reproductive Rights For Our Daughters
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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This is an awesome post and you are absolutely right: if the young lady feels ready to be a mother, she should be able to make that choice. HOWEVER, in the state of Texas she would not be able to make the choice to have an abortion without her parents’ consent, so why should she be able to choose to continue a pregnancy her parents would prefer she terminate? These anti-choicers need to make up their mind. Either a minor can make her own healthcare decisions or she can’t. Which is it?
I agree! I am so sick of the this or that directives for parents.
All I can say is . . . Wow! She just won a can of [implicative deleted]! I am a middle age mom. I had children in my teens and life as I knew it sucked! Truly! My children, especially my first born, struggled to keep up with peers born to adult prepared parents. Though I am an awesome parent now it does not replace the hard times that could have been avoided if I had kept my legs closed and found better men [not boys] to father my desired children. She is going to hate her choice for many reasons during many stages of life and parenthood.
Oh but there can be a silver-lining should she and her unborn child survive the trials and tribulations of teen parenting, but she will need to cowgirl-up and put on big panties and get busy with a life plan for success without help from those that were her support system. And in her case the spoil young teen will find it hard, very hard, to do!
I got pregnant at 16 and my husband and I had our oldest child a month after my 17th birthday. We were married when I turned 18 and had our second child that year. Our third child was born 4 months after we started college, . I started college, 12 days before my 20th birthday. We worked our butts off and even if he and I had to go without, our kids never suffered through anything and have never had any problem “keeping up” with anyone else. I graduated with honors when I got my accounting degree despite having our fourth child when I was 22. Our last baby was born when I was 25. Our children are now 4.5, 7.5, 10, 11.5, and 13. They are all well rounded, well behaved honor roll students and have been provided with a life full of security and stability and have been completely oblivious to the struggles our family has faced.
My point in sharing all of this is simply to say that just because your experience was not an overall positive one does not mean that it will be the case for this girl, her child’s father and their baby. She’s got a long road ahead of her, for sure, but I know plenty of adults who have no business ever having children whereas I immediately devoted my entire life to ensuring that my children had a happy and normal life, which they have. Even at 16 when I was presented with the notion that my mother preferred that I have an abortion, I refused. I moved out of her house, got a job even WITHOUT a vehicle and became independent.
I respect the struggles that you faced and appreciate your perspective based on your own experience, but just because this girl didn’t keep her legs closed does not mean that she’s ruined her life or done any sort of injustice to her unborn baby. Reflecting on my life and nearly 12 years of marriage, I have never hated my choice – never regretted one moment and wouldn’t trade our life or any element of it for anything in the world. Hopefully it will be the same for this girl. Obviously there are many different scenarios and many different experiences for mothers who have had children in their teens — you never know her maturity level or her level of commitment to ensuring a good life for her child. For her to have enough sense and dedication to take it through the court for the RIGHT to motherhood, I would be willing to bet she’s more ready than a lot of mothers twice her age.
Oops – first paragraph, that should have read, “Our third child was born 4 months after we started college, 12 days before my 20th birthday.” Apologies for the fragmented sentence!
The parents simply should have shown her the door when she made it clear she wanted to keep the child. They should have let her keep the car and phone, but asked for the house key back. My mother did not provide me with a lot of guidance when I was a teen (not blaming her), and the family member I did live with as a teen made it very clear that I needed to get gone when I decided to act in ways that surely would have ended in teen pregnancy. It was a harsh wake-up call, but it worked. I didn’t have my first child until well into my 20’s.
My grandmother wanted my mother to have an abortion because she was a teen mom. She also put her out. I can understand being a mother and not wanting to take care of babies after I thought I was done, but I don’t quite get putting your teen on the street because they made a “choice” to carry a child to term. I understand that choice is the language we use, but children are more than choices. It’s a nasty coercion to say to a child that they can stay if they abort, but have to go if they don’t. If the teenage sex is the issue, then put them out because they are having sex and you don’t want them to. That’s a choice that you can punish for, just like any normal disobedience. But to condition a home only if that person goes through the trauma of an abortion – especially doing that to a child – seems unthinkable to me. Your child disobeys you by refusing to kill the life that they believe is growing inside of them – even if you see it as a fetus, which is your right – and you make them homeless with no support?
Hmmm, I like this perspective….punish the behavior not the consequences of the behavior.
Stop the slut shaming! She should have the right to have sex with whoever she wants, whenever she wants, and however she wants as long as both partners are able to and do express enthusiastic informed consent. You know what gets girls pregnant? Bad parenting. If people would just tell their kids the truth about contraceptives and disease instead of telling them not to have sex, we could almost eliminate teen pregnancy and STD infections. Geez, get some sense.
Yuuki: I think perhaps you should tool around MyBrownBaby for more than a single post before you decide that we don’t have healthy, progressive conversations about teens and sex here. No one is slut-shaming this young lady. I think the point is pretty clear: teens who choose to have babies do so with consequences, and maybe there’s a better way to march into parenthood than suing your parents to become a parent. Also, CHOICE goes both ways—whether you’re choosing to have an abortion or choosing to become a mother. There’s all kinds of irony in this story, none of which involves slut-shaming.