The Many Faces of Coercion

Lorena Rivera, a 21-year-old legal receptionist, disappeared while on her way to work in Oklahoma City in April 1997. More than a month later, her body was found buried in a shallow grave. Rivera, 21 weeks pregnant and the mother of a three-year-old son, had been shot twice and beaten to death.

Rivera’s friends testified at her killer’s trial that Rivera was delighted to be having a baby. Apparently her 20-year-old boyfriend, Nathaniel Dee Smith, was not. Police say Smith murdered Rivera because she refused to have an abortion and he didn’t want to pay child support. Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. (The Oklahoman, 6/2/99)

Sadly, women who resist an unwanted abortion often face violent, and even deadly, reprisals. It is not uncommon for attacks on reluctant women to take place even on the doorstep of an abortion clinic. In one incident that led to prosecution for assault and battery, a man began to beat his girlfriend when she balked at the clinic door and refused to enter (The Washington Times, 8/18/97).

According to the sworn testimony of Richard Seron, a security guard wounded during an abortion clinic shooting in 1994, such conduct is not uncommon. According to Seron, the greatest threat to women near abortion clinics is not from pro-life protestors, but rather from the men who are accompanying their wives or girlfriends to the clinic. (Boston Globe, 4/16/99)

Examples of murder stemming from women refusing abortion are shockingly common. Here are a few examples from recent news reports.

  • Sonya Hayes of Toledo, Ohio, refused to abort because of her religious convictions. Her boyfriend, Terrance Davis, 27, allegedly shot her in the stomach, killing her and her unborn son. Prosecutors have said it was obvious that the gunman was aiming for the unborn child when he fired the gun. (Associated Press, 2/8/00)
  • In California, Alfred E. Smith was convicted of second-degree murder for killing his pregnant girlfriend in 1997, then burning her car in an attempt to hide the body. Prosecutors said Smith killed his girlfriend, Deborah Moody, for refusing to have an abortion because of her religious beliefs. (Los Angeles Times, 5/21/98)
  • In Wyoming, 38-year-old Kevin Robinson was convicted for killing 15-year-old Daphne Sulk because she refused to get an abortion. Defense attorneys countered that Robinson and the victim did not know each other well. (Village Voice, 10/3/98)
  • In Great Britain, Brian Smith repeatedly stabbed Amanda Hunter in the stomach, planning to kill her and her seven-month-old baby. Both survived, however, and Smith was sentenced to life in prison. (Electronic Telegraph, 11/23/99)

Where Mothers Survive

Other examples of brutal or blatant coercion of women are also frequently found in news reports. Here are some recent examples.

  • In Arkansas, four men have been charged with capital murder under the state’s new Fetal Protection Act for beating a women who was due to give birth any day, resulting in the death of her baby daughter. Police say one of the men, Eric Bullock, was the woman’s boyfriend and that he hired the other men to attack her after she refused to have an abortion. Shawana Pace told police that she pleaded for her baby’s life as she was beaten, and that one of the men told her, “Your baby is dying tonight.” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11/9/99)
  • In New York, a 32-year-old medical resident was charged with assault and unauthorized practice of medicine for performing an unwanted abortion on his girlfriend. Police said that Mark Redeker blindfolded his girlfriend, tied her up, and injected her with a drug that caused her to miscarry. (Pro-Life Infonet, 9/3/98)
  • Nicholas Griffin, a Florida law school graduate, was sentenced to five years probation and 250 hours of community service for trying to force his ex-girlfriend to abort their daughter. Griffin had hired friends to blackmail his girlfriend by threatening to mail copies of a videotape the couple had made of themselves having sex to the woman’s family, friends and employer unless she had the abortion. (Miami Herald, 2/7/99)
  • A female inmate is suing the Hawaii state corrections system after a nurse injected the birth control drug Depo-Provera into her abdomen when she was processed into prison, causing the death of her unborn child. The lawsuit alleges that the nurse knew of the pregnancy and that the inmate was told she would be put in solitary confinement if the intake process did not go smoothly. (Honolulu Star Bulletin, 8/3/99)
  • Shontrese Otrey won a $25,000 settlement from Emergency Shelters, Inc., of Richmond, Va., after she was pressured by staff members to get an abortion. Otrey said she was told that the shelter did not provide services for pregnant homeless women. She stated that a staff member drove her to the bank to withdraw money for the abortion, then took her to the abortion clinic. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 10/29/99)
  • Nicole Bergstrom Ek of Minnesota won an out-of-court settlement of an undisclosed amount from her employer, Duluth Little Stores, after her boss tried to pressure her to abort. Ek said her boss mistreated her while she was pregnant and threatened to push her down the stairs during her sixth month of pregnancy. (Pro-Life Infonet, 8/2/99)
  • A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit against an abortion clinic brought by a woman who says she was held down by staff members when she tried to leave in the middle of an abortion. The woman said she experienced severe pain during the abortion and made repeated requests to be taken to the emergency room. The lawsuit contended that actions by staff members at Aware Woman Center for Choice in Melbourne violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, but the judge disagreed and dismissed the case. He also ruled the women could not pursue the case under an alias. (Associated Press, 1/8/00)

How much more of this goes on that we never hear about?


Learn More:

Visit for articles, information and free educational resources about unwanted, coerced and forced abortion.

See also A Generation at Risk: How Teens Are Manipulated Into Abortion and Who’s Making the Choice? Women’s Heightened Vulnerability During a Crisis Pregnancy.

Originally printed in The Post-Abortion Review, 8(1), Jan.-March 2000.  Copyright 2000, Elliot Institute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *