Chris and Bonny Fritz, who separated last fall over the issue of whether a husband has a right to block a wife's abortion, apparently have worked out their differences and are living together again in their trailer in Hagerstown.
But the pro- and anti-abortion forces that mobilized over the debate are carrying on the battle, arguing the legal aspects of the issue today before the Maryland Court of Appeals.
The news that the Fritzes have reunited--which came as a surprise to a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the organizations supporting Bonny Fritz--prompted Chief Judge Robert Murphy to wonder aloud why neither side had requested that the case be dismissed as moot since the abortion was performed three months ago and the couple has reconciled.
"Some people feel these people [the Fritzes] may be a pawn between competing sides," the judge said.
But R. Martin Palmer, a Bible-quoting Hagerstown lawyer who along with Baltimore attorney George Liebamann represented Chris Fritz today, responded that the issues are not moot precisely because the Fritzes have reconciled and the abortion argument between them could be repeated.
Chris Fritz, interviewed by telephone in Hagerstown, said he and his wife, who separated last September just before she got the abortion, reunited two days before Christmas after they exchanged letters and phone calls about their plight.
"We dated about two weeks, then we decided we'd be better off if we went back together," said Chris Fritz, a fast-foods restaurant manager.
"I'm still not sure exactly how she feels about abortions. We haven't talked about that in detail," he said. "But we have talked about having some more children in the future." He added that he thinks the legal battle is "important for unborn children and for fathers in the future who may want to exercise their rights."
Bonny Fritz could not be reached for comment today.
The two lawyers representing Chris Fritz told the seven-member appellate court that a father and a mother are equally responsible for the creation of a new life and that a father should have a legal right to say whether that life should be extinguished.
But ACLU lawyer Barbara Mello called arguments for a husband's veto in an abortion decision "absolutely staggering" and "a poor commentary on the woman's role in this society."
The case began last September when Bonny Fritz--then the 20-year-old mother of a 9-month-old daughter and 10 weeks pregnant with a second child--decided to get an abortion.
She argued that she and her husband were too young when they married, that he was not ready to fully shoulder the responsibilities of a family, and that she planned to leave him and take a job to support herself.
Chris Fritz said he felt he was within his legal rights to oppose his wife's abortion because he saw the operation as "just like killing one of my kids."
When Chris Fritz discovered that his wife--who had left him a few days earlier--was in the operating room of a Hagerstown abortion clinic just minutes away from surgery, he contacted Palmer who, through a series of quick legal manuevers, obtained a temporary restraining order from Washington County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moylan.
Moylan said he made the ruling on his personal belief that a husband's and father's consent is needed before a mother can terminate a pregnancy.
Maryland's two highest courts flip-flopped on the issue in the two days following Moylan's order. First the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overruled Moylan and said Bonny Fritz could have her fetus aborted. But within a day, the Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated the judge's original decision against the surgery.
But by the time the final decision was announced, the abortion had been performed.
Today the court listened to the opposing arguments for about one hour, but gave no indication when or how it would rule.