With obvious public outcries against forced abortions in China and forced sterilizations of mentally handicapped individuals in Nazi Germany, one might assume the United States knows better.
However, today, in Nevada, the life of an 11-week-old unborn baby and the future of his or her 32-year-old mother hang in the balance as a judge considers whether or not to order the woman to undergo an abortion and sterilization against her will.
Elisa Bauer, who suffers from severe mental and physical disabilities attributed to fetal alcohol syndrome, is currently in the final weeks of her first trimester. The second-oldest of six children adopted by William and Amy Bauer in 1992, Elisa has epilepsy and is said to have the mental and social capacity of a 6-year-old.
The circumstances surrounding her pregnancy are unknown. Her family suspects she may have been raped, but it’s possible the sexual encounter that led to her pregnancy was consensual. On several occasions, Elisa has left her group home for hours or days at a time to engage in sexual activity with men at a local truck stop.
Since turning 18 in 1998, she has continued to remain under court-approved guardianship of her parents, who were given legal authority to make final decisions regarding her health and welfare, even as she lived in a group home.
While Elisa has maintained that she wants to carry out her pregnancy, she knows she will be unable to care for the child. The Bauers support her decision, are following all the prenatal protocol for high-risk pregnancies, and have already lined up six qualified couples who are eager to adopt Elisa’s child once he or she is born.
However, when Washoe County Social Services became aware of Elisa’s pregnancy, the department issued an informal report requesting that the Court set a status hearing to address the potential health effects Elisa’s pregnancy could have on her and her unborn child, and possibly override the mutual decision made between Elisa and her parents to have her baby.
Jason Guinsasso, the attorney for the Bauers, says that the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in any health-related decisions regarding Elisa — pregnancy included — because Elisa’s parents are the legal guardians. He adds that Washoe County Social Services Department must submit a formal petition based on substantial grounds to usurp guardianship before the County Court can get involved.
“There are no statutes that give this Court or Washoe County the authority to compel Elisa to have an abortion. Such decisions are left to the sound discretion of the duly appointed guardian(s)… To date, Washoe County has utterly failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that Mr. and Mrs. Bauer’s decision to support Elisa’s efforts to carry her child to term is unlawful or that they are not acting in a manner consistent with the best interests of Elisa’s health and welfare.”
The Bauers have also consulted a number of doctors in an effort to provide the best care to their daughter and obtain expert opinion that debunks the notion that abortion and sterilization are the appropriate and only measures recommended in Elisa’s case.
Dr. Michael Czerkes, an OB/GYN at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine reviewed all the medical facts and concluded that abortion was neither necessary nor prudent.
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“Monitoring and screening in pregnancy is the recommended course of treatment in pregnancy for a baby who has been exposed to an anti-epileptic medication, not abortion. The risk of having a congenital abnormality is increased when taking these medications; however the risk is not great enough to recommend the ending of the pregnancy.”
A Facebook support page has been created on behalf of the family to help get the word out about Elisa. Visit www.facebook.com/SaveElisasBaby to learn more.
LifeNews Note: Becky Bowers-Greene is a graduate of the University of Arizona and convert to the Catholic faith. A writer and speaker, Becky has published works in the areas of health and wellness, religion, parenting, and aviation. Her musings on family, life, marriage, and authentic feminism can be found at her blog site www.reclaimingthewomb.com. Becky lives in Chandler, Ariz. with her husband and three children, and is expecting her fourth child this spring.