Deciding to abort her unborn child was an agonizing decision for 18-year-old Jennifer Reynolds.
But the pain of her very private decision became excruciating as the details of her estranged husband's battle to prevent her abortion became the focus of an emotional controversy debated in local media and on national television.After a Salt Lake district judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing Jennifer Reynolds, nine weeks pregnant, from obtaining an abortion, a news conference was held, and she found herself at the center of what American Civil Liberties Union officials called "a shocking restriction of personal liberties."
She had been ensured anonymity by the ACLU and the Utah Women's Center, which called a news conference "to expose a significant issue without revealing individual identities." But her name, which was printed on the court documents, was exposed by the media following her husband's conversations with reporters and her "privacy was lost forever," she said.
To avoid further publicity, Jennifer Reynolds did not attend the hearing Wednesday before 3rd District Judge David S. Young where her husband's attorneys argued passionately to persuade the judge that Michael Jon Reynolds had the right to rear his unborn child.
The judge, however, ruled there was no legal basis for denying Jennifer Reynolds' right to an abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no one can interfere with a woman's desire for an abortion during her first trimester of a pregnancy.
Following the Wednesday hearing, Michael Reynolds told reporters, "It's not my right or her right. The child has a right of his own, and it's not my decision it should be based on, or hers. The baby has a mind. Just because it can't walk or talk, it still has the right to be born."
Immediately after Young's ruling, Michael Reynolds' attorney scurried to the Utah Court of Appeals, where a judge signed another restraining order prohibiting Jennifer Reynolds from having an abortion until an appeal could be heard Monday.
During the brief time between the district judge's ruling and the order being signed by an appellate judge, Jennifer Reynolds rushed to the Utah Women's
Health Center, where she had an abortion. She had not received the second restraining order, which had to be delivered to her personally before becoming legally binding.
"I went right over to the clinic after the judge ruled. I was scared they would appeal," she told the Deseret News Thursday morning.
"I wanted to start a new life. I didn't want this dragging on. I'm 18 years old, I have a 10-month-old baby, and I'm going through a divorce. I want to give all my care and attention to the baby I already have. I knew I just could not handle having another child this soon. I was concerned about my mental and emotional health."
Jennifer Reynolds wanted to talk about her private decision publicly because she feels people have only heard her husband's view. She deeply regrets and resents, however, that her abortion was made public.
"Millions of women have abortions for their own reasons. I just don't think it's fair now that so many people know what I've done."
It's important that the public understand why she's had an abortion, she said.
Her husband's attorney, Mitchell Barker, told the Deseret News Thursday that his client may decide to take his case to the Utah Court of Appeals based on principle a father's right to rear his own child.
"We're very disappointed that the legal proceeding was not allowed to take its full course. They obtained their own desires by beating us to the punch. A decision of this magnitude, however, should be based on law."
"This may be an occasion when the matter should be argued before the appellate court on principle even though the issue in Reynolds' case may be moot. The court could make a decision to set a precedent for future situations like this," Barker said.
The father, extremely distraught by the legal maneuvering, was unavailable for comment Thursday, Barker said.
The decision to abort their second child was mutual, said Jennifer Reynolds.
Married in November 1986, Jennifer Reynolds gave birth June 3, 1987, to a son, Zachary.
"We decided there was no way we could emotionally or financially handle a second child so soon. I'm too young, and so is my baby. That's what we both felt," she said.
The couple set a March 22 appointment for an abortion.
But on March 19, Jennifer Reynolds left her husband because he "was not supportive as a husband or a father. He never took responsibility for either of us. He was too busy to pick Zachary and me up from the hospital after he was born. My mother had to take me home. That hurt me a lot.
Two days after she left him, Michael Reynolds filed divorce papers and a request for a restraining order to prohibit the abortion because he wanted to rear his unborn child, she said.
"It didn't make any sense to me that he would want to divorce me yet ask me to carry his child until it was born. He expected me to hand our child over to him after I had carried it for nine months. I would be divorced at the time of the baby's birth, and I just couldn't take it all."
She has received criticism for her abortion decision from those who have only heard her husband's view, she said.
"Now I want my story out because his view has been represented so strongly. Everybody has their own opinions about abortion. I think a person's view should be totally private; that's why I didn't come out sooner."
She supports the position of the U.S. Supreme Court that protects a woman's right to make a private choice about abortion.
"It's my body, and I think I should be able to do what I think is best. I made the decision for my own health and for the well-being of my 10-month old son. I want to begin a new, happier life for myself and for Zachary."