Florida Governor Hasn’t Decided on Unborn Child’s Guardian Case

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 13, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida Governor Hasn’t Decided on Unborn Child’s Guardian Case

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 13, 2004

Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — Governor Jeb Bush (R) hasn’t decided whether he will challenge an appeals court decision saying that an unborn child, conceived by a mentally disabled Florida woman who was sexually assaulted, did not deserve a guardian to protect her right to life.

The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach ruled 2-1 late Friday that Orange County Judge Lawrence Kirkwood was right in denying the unborn girl a guardian to protect her interests in court. The court said Florida guardianship statutes don’t discuss rights for unborn children.

Judge Robert Pleus dissented in the case and, in his opinion, urged the state legislature to "overturn this decision" by giving unborn children rights in the guardianship section of state law. However, pro-life legislators said they doubted such legislation would get the support of the state legislature.

Bush and pro-life groups said the unborn child deserved a guardian because pressure was being placed on the woman, known as J.D.S. in court papers, to have an abortion.

"I do think that a child that could be brought to term, as this child was, in the case where a mother has little or no capabilities in representing the child’s interest, a legal guardian should be appointed," Bush said Monday.

Abortion advocates disagreed, citing the privacy clause of the Florida constitution and a previous Florida Supreme Court decision disallowing a guardian for an unborn child.

"This has nothing to do with my deeply held views on abortion," Bush said. "This is about when a mom has no ability to communicate or protect the interests of a child whose rights and interests may be different."

Bush could appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.

Whatever the outcome of the case, it will be a precedent only and will not affect the baby of the disabled woman. The woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl in August.

The disabled woman lived in an Orlando state-licensed group home for mentally disabled persons. The 75 year-old husband of the elderly woman who owned and ran the home was arrested on accusations that he raped J.D.S in the latter part of 2002. His trial is pending as is his wife’s on charges of negligence in the care of a disabled person.

J.D.S., now 23, lives in a special group home while her baby is in foster care.