Florida Guardianship Case May Create Key Legal Precedent

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 16, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida Guardianship Case May Create Key Legal Precedent

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 16, 2003

Orlando, FL (LifeNews.com) — Because a disabled woman who was raped may give birth before the legal case regarding guardianship for her unborn child is complete, the ongoing legal battle may now be more about setting a strong legal precedent in favor of guardianship in potential future cases.

In the latest development in the lawsuit, a Florida appeals court has reversed an earlier order and will allow an attorney representing pro-abortion organizations to participate in the legal case regarding a mentally disabled woman who was raped and became pregnant while living at a group home.

The 5th District Court of Appeal issued its ruling Friday.

Gov. Jeb Bush and pro-life groups have been fighting to allow a guardian to be appointed for the unborn child. However, the abortion advocacy groups say allowing a guardian would be a first step to overturning legal rights to abortion.

Orange Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood appointed a guardian for the woman, known as J.D.S. in court records, but not for the unborn child.

Jennifer Wixtrom has appealed the decision because she wants to be the guardian for the baby and the Department of Children & Families supports her request.

"While the appellant does not seek to transform this case into a national debate over fetal rights, the matter of appointment of guardians for [the] unborn child of an incompetent ward is of great public importance," Wixtrom’s attorney Edward Jordan wrote in a July 18 brief.

The order also allows an attorney for three pro-life groups to participate in the hearing. They include the Liberty Counsel, Florida Right to Life, and the Christian Coalition of Florida.

The court is expected to have the guardianship hearing next week. Ironically, J.D.S. is close to giving birth and may have done so before the hearing.

Thus, many court observers say the ongoing legal battle is now one of establishing case law. Pro-life groups hope the rulings will favor guardianship for unborn children to help with future cases, if they happen.

The pro-abortion groups seeking standing include the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, the ACLU of Florida, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Florida National Organization for Women.

The order also gives the Florida Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities and the American Association of People with Disabilities the right to participate.

The Florida Attorney General’s office will argue for DCF.