TEACHER: They're all so young.. . so impressionable. A sentimental movie . . . a romantic song . . . a book. They were too young to really. understand.
2. Is Society willing to provide social, financial and religious help to such a girl and her baby? Will classes in sex instruction and parenthood training in the schools cut down pregnancy among teen-agers?
3. Does abortion in other countries prevent mental illness among pregnant women?
DR. CHRISTOPHER TIETZE /
LAURA: I read An American Tragedy in school and I always remembered the part where Clyde pushed Roberta into the water and she drowned. Her mistake was she wanted to marry him. As far as I'm concerned, if I never see Wilson again, it'll be too soon.
JOAN: Laura, I spoke to one of the girls at work. She knows someone who'll...
LAURA: I can't wait too long or there won't be any more hiding it. I know Papa and Mama would help me but . . . I can't get them worried.
JOAN: If you meet me tomorrow, we can go make the arrangements.
LAURA: Papa especially. I know he'd feel bad. Very bad. And Mama, she'd say only one thing: Marry him.
JOAN: There's someone we go to first. He waits for you in a parking lot. Then he takes us. It's three hundred dollars. I've saved it up. I'll lend it to you.
LAURA: I was stupid . . . I admit it. But I'm not the only one. You see it in the movies . . . in books. People doing it all over the place. And no one complains. But if you get caught . . . if you get pregnant, you're a bad girl.
ABORTIONIST: Do you have the money?
JOAN: It can't be today.
ABORTIONIST: It was for this afternoon.
JOAN: My sister's sick.
ABORTIONIST: Scared, you mean. Well, let her find someone else.
JOAN: Please. Don't go. Mister...
LAURA: I can't do it, Joan. I'm too scared. I just have to talk to someone else.
TEACHER: What can I tell her? Her and all the other girls in this school. And there are many. Too many. In almost all the marriages here, the girl is pregnant.
LAURA: I don't want to marry him.
TEACHER: And if you did, it's a fifty.fifty chance the marriage wouldn't last.
LAURA: Please help me.
TEACHER: Marriage is out . . . O.K. Second possibility: Go through with the pregnancy and place the baby for adoption.
LAURA: You mean . . . have it? Really have it?
JOAN: I've found someone else, Laura. A girl in the office used him. But this time you have to go. You can't keep running away.
LAURA: But I'm scared.
TEACHER: You could go away. With your parents' help.
LAURA: A baby. I know I'm having a baby . . . I mean that I can have one. But actually having it . . . I never thought about that.
JOAN: Come on, Laura, let's go.
LAURA: But to have the baby . . . I'd see it . . . and then not see it any more. Could I ever do something like that?
TEACHER: It is what many will recommend to her. Lawyer, doctor, parents, social worker, minister. To me . . . it's cruel.
JOAN: Laura, are you coming?
LAURA: I don't know.
TEACHER: It's quite a decision for a girl to make. Does she have the child illegitimately and raise it herself? A valid question. But not so simple~ to answer.
LAURA: I could work to support it.
TEACHER: The infatuation of the romantic challenge begins. It will not last long.
LAURA: I really would work.
TEACHER: No, for when the reality of her isolation returns, she may be fortunate enough to escape from the despair and illegitimacy that all too soon become poverty and prostitution.
I lecture perhaps, but I will be forgiven. For I am a teacher.
JOAN: If you don't go to this man, Laura, what are you going to do?
TEACHER: If she is one of the lucky ones, she will find a doctor courageous enough to abort her. A legal abortion. If not, then because she is unwed and bears a child, she, who is but herself a child; will become an outcast.
MINISTER: How does such a bitter prophecy serve this girl?
Obviously, not well . . . for she sits in the rectory and she weeps. What counsel has been given but that of flight and evasion? And the sadness of it lies in the fact that much of what has been said is true.
LAURA: Other girls, .... .1 know lots of them.
MINISTER: We live in a time where premarital sex has become a way of life. Privately, we worship sex. Publicly, we condemn it. And the girl who is unwed becomes the unfortunate victim of her innocence.
LAURA: I'll go away. I have to. I'm so ashamed.
MINISTER: She weeps . . . and one weeps with her. For shame is a perilous plight. Shame can become terror . .. desperation.
TEACHER: And desperation can become suicide. But they can be helped.
MINISTER: This girl must be helped. Somehow she must learn that her right to live happily and well can never become so important that it comes ahead of another's human's right to exist. TEACHER: She has a right not to bear this child.
JOAN: We'll find someone, Laura. I promise.
MINISTER: The right to be born. The right to exist. It's the basis of all our law. Without it, we live in anarchy.
LAURA: I don't understand. I'm confused. I don't want to hear : any more. I'm having a baby and no one does anything. No one does anything. No one does anything to help me. Please, someone, help me!
1. Should a pregnant unwed girl be allowed an abortion?
Bio-Medical Division, The Population Council /
"I would like to speak to her. I would like to speak to that boy if I can get my hands on him. I would like to speak to the sister and to Papa and Mamma, but we cannot do this. We have to discuss Laura in their absence. Let us face some possibilities that are open to her:
"She can commit suicide.
"She can enjoy the joys of expectant motherhood for nine months and then give up her baby; I think this is a perversion of the relationship between a mother and her child.
"She can be perhaps persuaded to marry that boy. She doesn't want that. I had the definite impression that he doesn't want it, either.
"With her parents' help, if they are as understanding as they are, if they are as helpful as she thinks they are, she can make the decision to try to raise this child as her own. The first thing that will happen if she does this, is that she will be thrown out of school so we have one more high school drop-out, with an unsatisfactory job and a horrible life.
"I, for one, would like to see Laura able to live under a legal system where she can get advice, where she can be helped to make up her own mind and after she has done this, where her decision can be carried out under the best technical circumstances and that incudes emotional support by the people who will help her. I want freedom now to let Laura decide what she wants and let her have it."
MR. THOMAS O'TOOLE /
Dean, Northeastern University School of Law,
Boston, Massachusetts /
"Abortion for Laura, and girls with similar problems, would be illegal in every state in the United States. It would even be illegal in Colorado, North Carolina, or California, where the laws have been changed recently. "Nevertheless, making abortion legally available on demand would not eliminate Laura's dilemma. Her situation arises from a social system, from the strong possibility if there were available to her a legal abortion she would still seek a secret approach to her social problem because of the concern of her parents: The experience of other countries has generally been that making abortion more available under the law tends to increase the number of illegal abortions.
"If I heard my colleague at this conference right, the number of abortions being performed in such cases in hospitals by reputable physicians is insignificant. Almost all of the hospital cases involve married women, not women in Laura's position. Her problem cannot be solved by a change in the law."
MISS DOROTHY HEIGHT /
President, National Council of Negro Women,
Washington, D.C. /
"The concept of being unwanted probably has even affected Laura herself, because other conditions in housing, in poverty, in deprivation, the lack of good counseling, the timidity with which we have approached education about sexuality and the fear with which we have dealt with the problems that young people are trying to cope with at earlier and earlier ages. We see what happens in the life of a girl like this who says that she is crying out but there is no one who will help her and she has a feeling of being alone.
"I think it challenges us to take with a great deal of concern not only the unwanted pregnancy, but the way in which we deal with the problems that are deeply within our society whether they be poverty or deprivation or racial discrimination --whatever they may be. If we had the courage to deal with these, it would allow' these children to come into life really wanted."
"I have been persuaded by my colleagues at this meeting that what we need most is a reform in which there shall be no law for or against abortion, but that judgment about abortion should be by the person or persons involved, using such professional services as we have and would provide. Then, with the moral interest we have in preserving life and making the quality of life better, we would be impelled to develop services, for Laura, services so that she would not do what she has done again-services which would provide for a new sense of belongingness and a sense of identity for herself."
MRS. EUNICE SHRIVER /
''I think there is a real question here as to whether or not abortion is really the solution of this young lady's problem and C~ whether this is really the solution we want to offer our teen- agers.
"There are alternatives. One is to encourage sex instruction in high school. Another is to give courses in child development, child education, to high school and college youth, and also give the opportunity to work with small children, so they will recognize that preparation for parenthood is an extremely important thing.
"In that way, instead of legalizing it and making it part of the legal structure of our country, you could help make promiscuous sexual behavior unacceptable to teen-agers. In this way, I think a great deal can be accomplished."
"We are faced with a growing tide of unwanted children. In my judgment this is at the root of our growing juvenile delinquency.
"We talk a good deal about the reverence for life as a social value. There are two other social values that I think bear a part in Laura's case.
"One is the right of an individual to self-determination. Dr. Tietze has described the options that face Laura. Two of them are barred to Laura if Laura is poor--suicide or legal abortion. One of them is barred from Laura if Laura is affluent--suicide. Today, from what I heard from the doctors here, Laura, if she is affluent, almost undoubtedly can get a therapeutic abortion. If Laura is poor, she cannot.
"I think that one of the other values that we hold great store by is the equal application of the law. I think that when the law works differently for different people, it is itself immoral and should be repealed."