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Commentary: Sex ed must go beyond teaching abstainence

A mother's world collapses when she loses a child – not just when the child dies, but when she's lost to the streets, to a feel-good culture of anything goes, to the poor decisions of youth and circumstances beyond any committed parent's control.

Tonuya Scheniell Rainey, the 38-year-old mother of eight who worked two jobs for years to help provide for her kids, may have seen her world falling apart through the growing womb of her 16-year-old.

What she is accused of doing, though, appears cold, calculating and cruel.

The Miramar woman is accused of forcing her teenage daughter to take abortion pills, taking the fetus from the toilet where it was aborted in early March and tossing it in the trash for curbside pick up.

John Hurley, the first judge who handled Rainey's bond, was so appalled he called her alleged actions – police say she confessed – "tantamount to murder" and raised the bond to $185,000. A second judge, Matthew Destry, later set a $14,000 bond, an appropriate level for the charges of illegal termination of a pregnancy, practicing healthcare without a license, child abuse and improper disposal of human remains.

I say "appropriate" based on legal parameters. Abortion is legal through the second trimester and prosecutors were fine with the lower bond. A court will determine if this was a forced abortion of a nearly 24-week fetus still breathing, as Rainey's daughter claims, or a desperate mother's mistaken, if overzealous, attempt to do right by her daughter, who Rainey says aborted a lifeless fetus.

Let's not kid ourselves, though. Technology has made us aware of when life begins and when it's viable.

At 24 weeks, which would be the end of the second trimester when abortions are still legal, a fetus looks like a foot-long baby weighing between one and two pounds. His ears are developed, so he can hear his mother's voice. His lung walls are starting to strengthen and, if he's a boy as this fetus was, his testicles are about to drop to the scrotum. A baby delivered at this time may survive – something that was rare when the landmark Roe v. Wade case was decided in 1973.

In fact, any abortion that occurs after 16 weeks usually requires a two-day medical procedure, and a limited number of clinics do them. Pills are usually given early in the first trimester.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion statistics, unmarried women make up two-thirds of those who get abortions and – red flag here – 60 percent of the women already had one abortion. About 46 percent say they had not used contraception and most of the others admit they weren't using contraception consistently. That's why sex education that goes beyond "just say no" makes sense.

It's not surprising that teens are more likely than women in their 20s to delay having an abortion after their 15th week of pregnancy, which increases the medical risks. There's fear, confusion and angst.

As one who is personally pro-life but supports every woman's right to choose as a national policy – with the caveat that abortion should always be the last resort, a decision that cannot be made cavalierly and with the goal that abortions should be rare – this case is troubling on so many levels.

It says as much about the cavalier misuse of abortion as a contraceptive as it does about the growing sexual carelessness of teenagers. It should put every parent on notice to talk with – not "to" – their teens about personal responsibility and life's tough choices.

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