Family of Disabled Woman in Abortion Controversy Won’t be Guardians

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Family of Disabled Woman in Abortion Controversy Won’t be Guardians

by Pal Nowak Staff Writer
April 2, 2004

Orlando, FL ( — The family of J.D.S, the mentally disabled rape victim whose case has sparked national controversy and a legal battle between Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) and pro-abortion advocates, has withdrawn their requests for her aunt to serve as her legal guardian.

"They had one interest: to protect the rights of the daughter," Daniel Soloway, the attorney who filed the paperwork for the family said Wednesday. "They accomplished what they wanted."

Following the revelation of J.D.S.’s pregnancy, pro-life groups joined Bush and the head of DCF in advocating for a guardian for the baby. Abortion advocates agreed with a local judge who appointed a guardian for J.D.S., but not for the unborn child.

Soloway said he is confident that Patti Riley Jarrell, the court-appointed guardian for J.D.S., will ensure that whatever legal action is needed will be done to take care of J.D.S.

Jarell was appointed as J.D.S.’s guardian by Orange Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood in June. It was Jarrell that recommended to the court that J.D.S. give birth rather than obtain an abortion, a decision supported by pro-life groups and Governor Bush.

In August, J.D.S. gave birth to “Baby Girl S.” Her parental rights were terminated immediately after the child was born.

Phillip Strong, the husband of Hester Strong who operated the Orlando group home where J.D.S. lived, has been charged in the rape after DNA tests matched him with J.D.S.’s daughter. He has been declared incompetent and may not stand trial, although Hester Strong has been charged with felony negligence.

As in the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose husband wants to remove her feeding tube, Governor Bush has been criticized for his involvement in the J.D.S. case.

Circuit Judge Lawrence Kirkwood put his comments into a judicial order and criticized Bush’s administration for exploiting the case of J.D.S., a disabled woman who was raped by the husband of a couple who ran the group home where she was living.

Kirkwood says actions by the Florida Department of Children and Families have been "adverse" to JDS. He accused Bush and DCF of "exploiting JDS into a national debate on fetal rights and abortion."

A spokeswoman for Bush said the governor disputed Kirkwood’s assessment. Bush has been "steadfast" in his concern for JDS, said Alia Faraj, the governor’s spokeswoman.

"This has been his focus and the impetus for his involvement," she told the Associated Press. "While others may interpret it differently, the governor’s focus has been on J.D.S. and her child."

Jerry Regier, who is pro-life and is the head of DCF, said "our hearts go out to J.D.S. and to Baby S."

"The goal of DCF at this point is to ensure the safety and well-being of Baby S," Regier said. "I have directed our staff to do whatever is necessary to find a permanent loving home for the child."