Reproduction rights under the United States Constitution boil down in my opinion to the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, together with the United States Constitution Fifth Amendment due process protections of life and liberty against government violations without probable cause and judicial process.
That is the justification for a woman’s reproductive rights, her rights to choose whether or not to reproduce, which are constitutionally protected. She is at liberty to allow her pregnancy to develop to full term or terminate it at her sole discretion; the decision is entirely up to her.
But what about children; do minor female children enjoy the same reproductive rights?
That difficult question has presented itself recently in the matter of a pregnant Texas teenager who is suing her parents to stop them from forcing her to abort her unborn child. The 16-year-old, who is identified only by the initials R.E.K. because she is a minor, claims in the lawsuit her parents are coercing her to abort her 9-week-old fetus through both verbal and physical threats and harassment.
The lawsuit claims that the girl’s father threatened to take her to have an abortion; that the decision is his; end of story. It further alleges that her parents kept her home from school, took her phone and car, and that she, the father of her child and the child's paternal grandmother have been harassed by her father, while her mother threatened to slip her an abortion pill.
"...She is legally protected. They cannot drag her to get an abortion, force an abortion on our client," the girl’s attorney Stephen Casey, of the Texas Center for Defense of Life, told reporters.
Initially, I’m sorely tempted to come down on the side of the teenager in this case because it involves her body and I have always steadfastly supported women’s reproductive rights and their rights to choose.
But on second thought, this Plaintiff is not a woman quite yet; she’s a minor child by definition of the law. That’s the reason why she could not be identified to the public – she’s a minor – she has yet to attain the age of majority.
She and her attorney are not objecting to that but they want it both ways. They say she’s a child for the purpose of privacy rights but a woman for the purpose of reproductive rights.
She can’t have it both ways.
Suppose she were nine years old instead of sixteen; should a nine year old child be allowed of overrule her parents decision regarding the protection of her best interests? After all, she is still under their parental protection and authority, and would still be under that parental protection when she delivered her baby.
Her parents would still be responsible for her well being and she shouldn’t be allowed to force upon them a baby under circumstances in which they do not believe a baby would be in her best interests.
If this minor child can force her parents to allow her to reproduce at such a young age, then surely she could force them to allow her to respect all sorts of additional rights which are enjoyed by adults but normally denied to minors.
Suppose she decides that she doesn’t want that flu shot at the doctor’s office; suppose she decides that she doesn’t want to visit the doctor at all; that she wants to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey – after all it’s her own body, isn’t it?
And while she’s at it she might decide to start staying out on school nights until the wee hours of the morning and inviting the father of her baby to stay with her in her room. It’s her life. It’s her body. Why shouldn’t those decisions be her constitutional rights just like they would be if she were of age?
I empathize with this minor girl’s parents in this case. If she were my daughter or granddaughter I’d be laying down the same law, end of story. She’s not old enough or experienced enough to fully partake in all of her constitutional rights. Her parents as responsible adults are conserving those rights on her behalf for the benefit of her own best interests.
In other words, yes, she has the rights but she is not old enough or experienced enough to exercise them in her own best interests. If her identity may not be revealed by the press; if she can’t smoke cigars and drink whiskey, then she most certainly should not be allowed to have a baby.
I say no – children should not have independent reproduction rights as against their parent’s best judgment.