Byline: Jamie Dettmer
The Bells hope their daughter's death will help save other lives. Jamie Dettmer reports
The sun caught the bracelet on Karen Bell's wrist, flashing her daughter's name, Becky, and the dates of her all-too-brief life. A striking woman with a mid-western twang, she wipes away the tears as she recounts the day she lost her teenage daughter. Close by, her husband Bill looks through the window, huddling his private thoughts momentarily to himself. Suffering is in the room, and contrasts sharply with the pretty Indiana countryside beyond the window.
Becky Bell died aged 17 because she lived in the wrong state. She was too ashamed or too anxious about causing disappointment to turn to her parents for help in ending a pregnancy. Her death, the result of a botched illegal termination, possibly self-induced, devastated her family and friends and set Bill and Karen Bell on a journey across America to argue against laws requiring minors to gain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy.
Since their daughter's death, the Bells have been lauded by pro-choice groups and despised by anti-abortion campaigners. The intensity of the divisive abortion debate in the United States is well illustrated by the snubs and cruelties that have been visited on a family who were, until Becky's death, as far away from political conroversy as it is possible to be.
``Merciless'' is how Mr Bell, 49, describes some of the militants in the anti-abortion movement. At one meeting, when Mr Bell said his daughter had made a mistake, a man in the crowd shouted out: ``Yup, she laid down.'' At another gathering, a man came up to the Bells and said: ``Sorry about your grandchild.'' In a mid-west town one of the wheels on their car was loosened.
Rebecca Bell was not an unearthly paradigm of virtue. Nor was she the wild-child that some in the anti-abortion movement have tried to make out. By all accounts she was a lively girl, open and trusting, who enjoyed her time at Cardinal Ritter high school on the outskirts of Indianapolis. She was a successful suburban schoolchild, very much the daughter of her all-American, apple-pie parents. Both Bells were Republicans and voted for Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Dan...