Big Brother Vs. Erin's Mom
California mother Virginia P.'s 14-year-old daughter, Erin, had a learning disability, low verbal comprehension, and psychological and emotional impairment. Due to the problems Erin was having, Virginia approached the school, and school officials agreed "to keep her informed of everything that happened relating to Erin, no matter how trivial or insignificant," and the principal developed a program of written daily reports to keep Virginia apprised of Erin's school situation.
When Erin's class was presented with sex education, the teachers learned by questioning Erin that she might be pregnant. These two teachers arranged a pregnancy test at an off-campus center, with the knowledge and approval of the principal. A teacher took Erin for the test, paying for it, filling out the forms since Erin was unable to do so, and forging school documents and the report to Erin's parents to conceal the fact that the girl had been taken off the premises without her parents' knowledge or consent.
Erin was indeed pregnant. The facility that did the pregnancy test, Oroville Family Health Center, knew that the adult accompanying Erin was her teacher and that the pregnancy test was being done during school hours to avoid notifying her parents. Oroville did not advise Erin to inform her parents, nor did they inform Erin of alternatives but instead joined the teacher in urging a secret abortion.
Oroville also urged Erin to proceed with the abortion within a matter of days or it would be too late, which was not true. The teacher and Oroville staff then met to plan how to secure Erin's abortion without parental knowledge or consent. The principal and superintendent of Erin's school were informed that the pregnancy test was positive, and they supported the decision to pursue secret abortion and all steps necessary to carry out the act.
During school hours, the teacher took Erin to the welfare department and with the complicity of staff there procured a Medi-Cal card to pay for the abortion. The teacher gave her own name and the school address. Staff at Medi-Cal knew that the Medi-Cal card was for use in obtaining a secret abortion. Erin's school records and daily report were falsified to appear as though Erin had attended her regular classes.
Oroville, the abortion clinic, and the school made arrangements with Rape Crisis to have Erin transported by a rape crisis counselor to Chico Feminists Women's Health Center (FWHC) for pre-abortion testing. The Rape Crisis counselor took Erin for four and a half hours during the school day to the clinic, and she presented herself to Erin as "a person experienced in and knowledgeable about gynecological and reproductive matters." The Rape Crisis counselor filled out the forms and read them to Erin, who was unable to do so herself, and "deliberately and purposefully remained with Erin continuously throughout the entire procedure and voluntarily assumed the fiduciary role of spokesperson and advocate for Erin, effectively controlling and limiting the information Erin received and keeping Erin in a passive, non-speaking role."
The Rape Crisis counselor "volunteered information and offered opinions to Erin, ... and voluntarily assisted FWHC in the explanation of the abortion procedure." She told Erin about her own abortion and urged her to proceed. She and the clinic workers "gave Erin inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information concerning...the nature of the abortion procedure, the time period within which the abortion could be performed, and the inherent risks of abortion." Erin's school records were again falsified to keep knowledge of the proceedings from Erin's parents.
Erin's teacher sent a note to Erin's mother stating that she wanted Erin to baby-sit for her March 23, 1985, and that she would keep Erin at her home overnight because she would be out late. The teacher again advised the principal and superintendent of the plans, which they supported.
On March 23, Erin's teacher took her to Chico Feminist Women's Health Center for the abortion, identifying herself as the girl's teacher and filling out forms for her because Erin was unable to do so herself. Diane Pemberton performed the abortion on Erin. at no time did any agents of the clinic, Rape Crisis, Oroville, or the school inform Erin of alternatives to abortion, or of the risks associated with abortion, but at all times all parties involved continued to encourage secret abortion as safe and easy. Erin spent the night at her teacher's home, and again school records were falsified to conceal the fact that she had been off the school premises.
On March 27, Erin's mother was called by the school and asked to come there immediately. Upon her arrival, Virginia was informed of the abortion and that complications had arisen. The teacher took Erin and her mother to a doctor's office, where Erin was examined and immediately rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery.
While Erin was in emergency surgery, and her mother paced the floor in front of surgery, Chris Parker from the clinic arrived at the hospital, and "confronted [Erin's mother], explained that she was from FWHC, and repeatedly told [her] that Erin had had a right to have an abortion because it was every woman's right to choose what to do with her body. [Erin's mother] repeatedly asked Parker to leave her alone, informing Parker that she was very worried about her daughter and very angry at those who had assisted in the abortion. Parker ignored [her] requests and continued harassing, haranguing, and berating her, despite [her] recent shock, obvious distress, and repeated requests to cease." Erin's mother finally knocked the woman to the floor.
Erin's parents "are informed and believe ... it is the policy and practice" of the school district to procure secret abortions for pregnant students. Erin's mother contended cause of action against the school district, Oroville, Rape Crisis, the welfare department, the clinic, and agents thereof for deceit in leading her to unwittingly relinquish care, control, and custody of Erin to them under circumstances she never would have consented to, and for misinforming Erin about abortion and her options. Erin's mother also found cause of action in that the parties involved refused to consider the religious and/or philosophical beliefs of the family and of Erin herself, "thus imposing the Defendants' own beliefs on the minor child and family." Erin suffered "great physical harm and injury and emotional distress," and her family over $7000 in medical bills.
According to the 1991 Annual Report, Chico Feminist Women's Health Center is a National Abortion Federation member facility.
Source: Butte County Superior Court Case No. 89930
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