Parenting

Opinion: The Terror of Texas’ Teen Abortion Trap

An ultrasound machine.
An ultrasound machine. Photo by Tim Kubacki/Flickr
Whenever a post-menstrual person comes into the emergency room with localized abdominal pain, the doctors are going to require an ultrasound and a pregnancy test. Even for a 12-year-old. When that happened to my family, every cruelty the state has instituted into reproductive health came crashing into my head at once as something we were going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future.

The Kid With One F came to my wife and I on Sunday night saying that they had a sharp, pain in their side. It was bad enough to put them in tears. I was immediately concerned because my brother had turned septic and almost died from a freak accident when he was nearly the same age as my child, the result of a necrotic piece of fat that had been torn off when he fell from a slide and masqueraded as severe appendicitis.

We ended up at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and spent most of the night watching Amphibia while the kid drank enough water to enable a pelvic ultrasound. As we sat there watching them get the procedure, the machine throwing up images that gave me fertility treatment flashbacks, the tech casually narrated. Here is the ovary, here is the other ovary, and let’s just make sure they aren’t pregnant.

They weren’t, but I spent some agonizing minutes spinning horrific hypotheticals. The kid has been the target of a lot of anti-LGBT bullying at school lately. What if one of those assholes had assaulted them and they had simply not told us? What if some authority member at the school had accosted them? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a teacher began assaulting a middle schooler in this state. No matter how much you try to prepare your kids for possible grooming, inappropriate attention from adults, and physical attack from peers, they are all so tiny and the evil in the world is so strong.

If my child were pregnant at 12, what the hell would I do? The draconian and irresponsible new abortion law in Texas makes securing one almost impossible. I know the opinion of organizations licensed by the state is that 13-year-olds should totally give birth and choose adoption, but that seems to be downplaying considerable risks to a pregnant child that young.

The World Health Organization says that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among teen girls ages 15-19 globally and that pregnant children are at higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections. The state has already ignored the possibility of ectopic pregnancies, which my fevered brain imagined might explain a localized pain near the kid’s ovaries. Kids aren’t supposed to have kids. It's patently, provably dangerous, and I don’t want to risk the life of mine over a clump of cells Republicans care about more than the actual person who has to suffer the ordeal.

Sure, we could leave the state for an abortion, but what happens then? The medical establishment would already know about the pregnancy, and there is a $10,000 bounty for turning in people who help someone get an abortion. When a Starr County woman was charged for murder for getting an abortion earlier this year, it was medical staff that informed on her like something out of Gary Watson’s After Twilight. The possibilities of being financially ruined just trying to take care of our child are very high, even from doctors and nurses we should be able to trust.

The trap that Governor Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans have set leaves no room for any choice in a difficult situation. The only legal way out would be to dangerously carry a pregnancy, possibly from a rapist, to term and hope that it doesn’t kill or ruin the life of a child. This horrid game of Bastards Chess played out move for move as I sat in the dark holding my kid’s hand.

It turned out to be fine, but it won’t be for thousands of children in this state. Poor sexual education and less access to birth control is going to make our already devastating teen birth rate go up, and without access to safe, legal abortion a lot of bad people are going to have claim on forced births. Just insisting that everything will work out when a 12-year-old winds up pregnant is a cruel joke of a policy. This is madness, and it needs to stop.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner