Forced abortions in the United States

Under what circumstances, if any, may a woman (or girl) legally be forced to have an abortion against her will?

In the United States? I strongly doubt there are any such circumstances. You’d have both ends of the political spectrum up in arms if women were being forced to have abortions.

The only case I can think of where this would be plausible would be if a pregnant woman were comatose with no one to make her medical decisions for her, and so whatever hospital she was in decided to abort the pregnancy for medical reasons. I don’t know if that ever really happens though, and even if it does it isn’t so much forcing the woman into an abortion as it is performing one without her consent.

From a practical standpoint, forcing a conscious person into any medical procedure would be pretty difficult. You’d have to hold them down to administer anisthesia, and then it would be difficult to find a doctor willing to perform surgery on an unwilling subject.

Currently, I don’t know. Through a good deal of the 20th century, however, forced sterilization of people deemed “feebleminded” was far from uncommon. Forced abortion in a similar situation doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.

What about a minor whose parents/guardians wanted her to get one and she did not? I don’t know if their will would prevail, but it might in some states.

What states would those be?

Alabortiona and Terminessee, I guess.

Well, there’s “forced” and “forced”. There’s forced-by-the-law, and there’s “bullied by significant people, such as the father of the baby, or one’s own parents”. The latter surely happens, and nobody hears about it. When I was 17 and (mistakenly) thought I was pregnant, my own father gave me the ultimatum: abort, or get the hell out.

I know it happens. Is that still force? Does it count if it’s not “the government” doing it?

Malodorous covered the first circumstance that immediately occured to me. The second would be a seriously retarded female who would have been mentally incapable of giving informed consent to sex.

Both examples come down to the same argument. The female (child or adult) not being able to make decisions for themselves.

ETA: In these cases the female isn’t really able to express her wishes so this really doesn’t answer the OP.

A friend of mine, who was very pro-life, once tried to convince me that there were women in this country who had been forced to have abortions. I asked him what their names were. He said he was speaking in general and didn’t know any specific individuals. So I pointed out how unlikely that was - if the pro-life movement knew of a single woman in this country who had been forced to have an abortion they’d make sure it got huge publicity. My friend conceded this was true.

Except that the pro-life camp would never hold an unwilling example up - in effect, further victimizing her after she has already been forced into something she did not want - and put her at potential further risk from whoever forced her in the first place, who might become quite dangerous if exposed and similarly paraded.

The lack of a tickertape parade is no proof that women are never forced - by husbands, boyfriends, parents, maybe even grandparents.

This by no means indicates that the percentage is high. I suspect the greatest percentage is women who feel forced by circumstances, but go on their own volition. Some (very small percentage of) abortion-bound women do change their minds and allow the pregnancy to continue when offered concrete assistance, which bolsters my claim that without that help, they do feel forced.

See my post above. My father fully intended to kick me out of the house if I did not comply.* My aunt however was quite prepared to take me in. I have no idea where I’d have gone if she had not made that offer…if I’d really been pregnant to begin with. Is that force? What would a pro-life group have to gain by parading the distress and humiliation of a minor?

I cannot possibly be unique among a hundred million American women of childbearing age.

*For the record, even my mother didn’t know about this demand on dad’s part until I’d been married for many years. She wouldn’t have agreed with him. But their history does not suggest she would have stood up to him either.

Aren’t we discussing two different questions here?

Is there any legal circumstance by which a (mentally competent) woman can be forced to have an abortion?

Do people ever attempt to coerce unwilling women into abortions?

IMHO this belongs in GQ, and to the best of my knowledge the answer is no.

IMHO this belongs in GD, and to the best of my knowledge the answer is yes.

ETA: Sorry if it looks like Jr. Modding, that isn’t my intention. I’m just agreeig with **PaulParkhead ** that these are two very different questions and can be seperated to answer.

bigbabysweets2000, I agree with you. It seems that two different questions have become conflated.

Nancy Klein. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she was in an auomobile accident and went into a deep coma. Her husband went to court to get permission for an abortion that would improve her chances of recovery. Two anti-abortion absolute strangers tried to gain guardianship of Mrs. Klein and the fetus. The court refused, telling him he had no business in what was a family matter.

Yes, but as the patient is unable to give any opinion on the matter, it is a stretch to say the procedure is factually against her will. It is done without her specific consent, which, depending on specific circumstances that could never be known to us, may or may not be the same thing.

I did a bit of Googling. This is a tangent, but just to explain what eventually happened:

Nancy Klein did undergo the abortion. It did not improve her coma at the time, but apparently she did recover later and remained mildly brain damaged. The couple divorced. Ms Klein was quoted as saying that she “…feels strongly that people had no right to interfere with her husband’s decision”.

One might argue under the law that as Mr Klein was her legal guardian, permitted under the law to choose for her, she chose…through him. Alternatively, as she had no say in it, she cannot rightly be said to have had it done against her will, as her will was not involved.

I can tell you that women are given cesarean section surgeries against their explicit consent. I know a woman who screamed “I do not consent!” all the way down the hall as they wheeled her to surgery. She was sectioned anyway. The woman believed it was done due to hospital policy rather than emergent medical need. Therefore in theory a woman could also be forced to abort. All it would take would be the hospital getting an order from a judge, as is done occasionally with cesarean sections.

But I’ve never heard of one…not in America. In China, yes, quite a bit. I have heard of women foregoing treatment for certain cancers in order to carry a pregnancy to term, and then dying of the cancer after the child was born, a prime example of a case where a court might consider interference justifiable for the life of the mother…but did not.

In a country where pro-lifers don’t want 12-year-old incest victims to get abortions, this seems like an almost laughable question. But I have the feeling the case is quite different when it comes to racial minorities and mentally ill women. If it’s been done (outside of comatose women), I suspect it’s gone hand-in-hand with forced sterilization.

Do you have a cite for that last statement?

The “pro-life” groups are always screaming about women being “forced” to have abortions, but I’ve seen more ridiculous cases (12 year old incest victims) where they are the absolute strangers trying to deny them to those who want them.

This feels like a nitpick, but would it be considered an abortion if the fetus had died and was being removed against the woman’s wishes in order to save her life? I’m assuming that a court would allow that if petitioned.