Did Philly gov't pressure a teen to get an abortion?

Mind the question mark, because there are a few versions of the story as to how a case worker from the Philadelphia Department of Human Services procured a late-term abortion for a teen in the care of a foster mother who opposed it. The Daily News reports on allegations from the foster mother that not only did DHS pressure her foster daughter into the abortion, they threatened to take away the teen’s other child if she put up a fight over it. DHS says that a language difference created a misunderstanding:

A DEPARTMENT OF Human Services caseworker pressured a pregnant Mayfair teenager to undergo a late-term abortion by threatening to take away either her toddler or her unborn baby if she had the child, according to the teen’s foster mother.

The alleged strong-arm tactic happened one day after DHS learned of the pregnancy, when the girl was about 22 weeks pregnant, according to her foster mother and the girl’s social worker, Marisol Rivera. …

The Daily News also learned that:

* DHS got a Family Court judge’s order allowing it to take the girl for an abortion, after the girl’s birth mother refused to approve the procedure.

* By the time DHS arranged for the abortion – in March – the girl was 24 weeks pregnant. She had to undergo the procedure in New Jersey because abortions in Pennsylvania are illegal at 24 weeks.

* Although it is DHS policy that a DHS worker accompany any minor who has a court-ordered medical procedure, this did not happen on the girl’s first attempt to have the abortion. That attempt failed when the clinic wouldn’t accept her Medicaid card and wanted cash, according to the foster mother. A DHS worker did accompany the girl on a later, successful, attempt.

* Rivera, the girl’s social worker, said that she was fired by Concilio, which subcontracted with DHS to provide care, after she initially refused to accompany the teen for the abortion.

The “misunderstanding” explanation is certainly plausible, but given the foster mother’s story, it seems unlikely. She told the Daily News that the teen was excited to learn that the child would be a boy, had told her toddler that a younger brother was coming, and had already started picking out the name. The teen’s birth mother confirms this, telling the newspaper that the teen had come back from her ultrasound happy, and then suddenly she found out that her daughter had gone for an abortion.

It’s not the first time that the birth mother says her daughter had been bullied by DHS. The case worker became agitated when the teen had not taken her 1-year-old daughter to day care, and threatened to take the baby away at that point. The paper doesn’t give the context for that threat — had the teen left the child alone, or did she just not use a day care center the case worker wanted? If the former, then the case worker should have separated the baby from its mother then and there, and given that DHS didn’t initiate that kind of action, it would appear that the issue was less legal than preference.

Either way, it may surprise Philadelphia residents that they’re paying officials to procure abortions for teenagers — especially abortions that are illegal in the state of Pennsylvania. In the last three-and-a-half years, 119 of 335 minors in DHS care who became pregnant had abortions, and eight of them had to be performed out of state. DHS cannot use its budget money for abortions, but the city gets around that by using its general fund instead.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023