Judge Rules Against Forcing Mentally Disabled Woman’s Abortion
by Steven Ertelt, Becky Bowers-Greene | Reno, NV | LifeNews.com | 11/14/12 2:39 PM
Nevada District Court Judge Egan Walker has agreed that a pregnant 32-year-old mentally disabled woman will not be forced to have an abortion against her will.
Judge Walker has taken the potential abortion off the table and will hold a medical evidentiary hearing with experts to determine the best way to safely help the woman carry her pregnancy to term and have the baby. Nothing has been decided at this point about contraception for the woman, long-term.
The decision will become official later this afternoon or tomorrow morning when Judge Walker officially hands down the ruling.
Local pro-life advocates were worried the judge would approve the abortion, despite her legal guardians’ request to allow her to carry the pregnancy to term.
“Judge Walker’s announcement today was the answer to countless prayers across this country,” Melissa Clement, president of Nevada Right to Life, told LifeNews.
“The Washoe County Family Court will not intervene to force Elisa to have an abortion against her wishes and those of her parents,” she said. “We saw the hearts and minds of the county officials and the judge change over the course of three weeks. What started as bureaucratic overreach seeking to quickly eliminate a problematic fetus ended as a recognition that two lives were at stake and that care must be taken to protect them.”
An attorney for the guardians asked the Nevada Supreme Court to step in to protect Elisa and her baby, but the state high court did not do so. Attorney Jason Guinasso filed an emergency request with the state’s highest court to end the legal proceedings and allow the woman to carry the pregnancy to term.
Guinasso told LifeNews, “I can confirm that this order was given by the court from the bench. Abortion is no longer an option! We have won!”
Previously, Guinasso said Judge Egan Walker did not have the legal authority to force Elisa to have the abortion or hold legal hearings on the matter. He said if the guardians, who want her to have the baby, are overruled in court, that Washoe County Social Services should have filed paperwork with the court as to why it was forcing the woman to have the abortion. Local officials have not done that.
He said previously: “There are no statutes that give this Court or Washoe County the authority to compel [the woman] 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 [her] efforts to carry her child to term is unlawful or that they are not acting in a manner consistent with the best interests of [her] health and welfare.”
The woman, 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, she has epilepsy and is said to have the mental and social capacity of a 6-year-old.
The circumstances surrounding Elisa’s 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, she 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, Elisa 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 she 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 the woman’s child once he or she is born.
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However, when Washoe County Social Services became aware of the woman’s pregnancy, the department issued an informal report requesting that the Court set a status hearing to address the potential health effects her pregnancy could have on her and her unborn child, and possibly override the mutual decision made between her and her parents to have her baby.
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 the case.