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Baseball bat abortion

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by Pamela White

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have sex. Boy gets girl pregnant. Boy and girl say, "Uh-oh." It's a scenario that repeats itself far too often in the United States, a nation that long ago mastered splitting the atom but still can't figure out sex and fertility.

About 60 percent of the time, the above scenario ends in the birth of a baby—and a host of physical, emotional, financial and social concerns. The remaining 40 percent of unplanned teen pregnancies end in legal abortions.

The abortion rate among teens has been in a steady decline since the early '90s. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the decrease is primarily the result of improved contraceptive use among young women. But a small part of that decline is due to the shrinking availability of abortion services thanks to laws like Michigan's parental consent law, which requires a teen girl to get permission from her parents or a judge before she can receive abortion services.

If there is one law you can count on when trying to engineer the perfect society—something the right is every bit as guilty of doing as the left—it's the law of unintended consequences. Ask anyone from Michigan.

In Macomb County, boy met girl, had sex with girl, knocked girl up. And because girl wanted an abortion but apparently didn't want to involve her parents, boy and girl decided together to abort the baby themselves—with a baseball bat. Yes, a baseball bat.

According to police, the boy, 16, repeatedly beat the girl's abdomen with a miniature wooden baseball bat, causing physical trauma to the girl that resulted in the premature birth of the couple's six-month-old fetus.

Let's run through that again, because the details are important. A girl got pregnant, wanted an abortion but felt she couldn't seek help from a doctor because doing so would require getting permission from her parents. So she and her boyfriend decided to end the pregnancy themselves, and the girl allowed herself to be repeatedly beaten with a small baseball bat until the beatings resulted in premature labor. She then apparently endured labor and delivery unattended—no small thing at six months' gestation—and gave birth to an infant that was too premature to live outside her body. She and her boyfriend then wrapped the dead baby in a cloth and buried it in his backyard.

I'm sure the anti-abortion crowd didn't have this scenario in mind when they pushed Michigan's parental-consent law through. They were hoping to force the girl to have her baby. Chalk it up to unintended consequences.

But it doesn't stop there. The public outcry over this baseball bat abortion has been deafening, and prosecutors have labored long and hard to find a way to punish the teens. But, because the coroner ruled that the exhumed fetus had not been viable, the law of the land states that it was perfectly legal for the girl to have an abortion.

However, the boy is facing criminal charges under a 1999 law that makes it a felony for anyone other than a mother or doctor to commit acts that result in the miscarriage, stillbirth or serious injury of an embryo or a fetus. The law was intended to provide justice for women who wanted their babies but who lost them as a result of someone else's actions—a mugger, drunk driver, abusive husband. But now that law is being used to punish a boy for his role in what amounts to a back-alley abortion of his own baby. Unintended consequences again.

Where this case will go is anyone's guess. It's quite possible that, if the boy is convicted, the case will be thrown out on appeal. It's also possible that he'll spend his life until age 21 in juvenile prison—as if the memory of beating his girlfriend and burying a baby in his backyard isn't punishment enough.

Regardless, the case provides a glimpse at exactly what we can and cannot accomplish through our attempts to engineer our society.

The anti-abortion folks who promote parental consent and notification laws—in effect in 34 states across the nation, including, unfortunately, Colorado—do so because they want to block teens from having abortions. Period. They know that some parents will prevent their daughters from having abortions if given the chance. Yet publicly they claim their goal is simply to ensure that vulnerable, pregnant teens receive the support of their parents. "Wouldn't you want to know if your daughter were pregnant?" they ask well-meaning parents.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where every parent always said the right thing and every teenager had someone at home she could confide in, trust and turn to in times of trouble. But we don't, and no amount of legislation can change that fact. Nor can laws change the ancient and enduring fact that some women get pregnant when they don't want to and choose—yes, deliberately and knowingly choose—abortion, legal or otherwise, over motherhood.

Unfortunately, this sad story illustrates both of these points with tragic clarity. Not surprisingly, anti-abortion agitators are so intent on seeing these teens punished—one reader lamented to the Detroit News that it was sad the two couldn't be executed—that they're missing the pivotal role the anti-abortion movement has played in this drama.

So here's a question those who oppose legal abortion ought to consider carefully in the coming weeks as they plan new ways of interfering in other people's private lives: How desperate does a teenage girl have to be to allow herself to be repeatedly beaten with a baseball bat?


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