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'My baby no more,' says pregnant woman with disability in court
Nancy
post Sat May 24, 2003, 11:07 AM
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'My baby no more,' says pregnant woman with disability in court
By Carol Marbin Miller
Miami Herald
May 23, 2003
------------------------------------------------------
Mentally, she is a small child. And she is carrying a child she could not have consented to create.

On Thursday, the 28-year-old woman watched in bewilderment, her innocent smile lighting a cramped hearing room, as Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Arthur Rothenberg confronted a decision no one wanted to make.

The woman -- who has mental retardation, is deaf and experiences seizures -- is 23 weeks pregnant. Police believe she was raped. Her neurosurgeon says it would be "painful" and dangerous for her to carry to full-term. And her anti-seizure drugs place the fetus at serious risk of being deformed.

Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital scheduled an abortion for last week -- then refused to perform it. Her newly appointed guardians told Rothenberg they could not decide what to do.

The room went silent as the woman's mother -- at Rothenberg's request -- used sign language, gestures and words to ask her daughter what she wanted. Her mother kissed her face. She asked over and over, unable to prompt a clear answer.

Finally, in barely discernible words the woman spoke: "My baby no more."

"I understand," Rothenberg said. "I'm confident I understand. I have no moral uncertainty." After taking testimony for an hour, Rothenberg said he would have a decision soon.

"The court is called upon in a variety of situations to make a decision," Rothenberg said. The inability of the woman's guardians to decide, Rothenberg said, "places this in my lap. All that remains now is for me to make a decision."

Another case
Though the woman's plight remained largely private, a similar drama is unfolding on a national stage in Orlando.

Last week, Gov. Jeb Bush announced he was seeking a guardian for the unborn child of a 22-year-old rape victim from Orlando, who also has a severe disability.

Bush said his intention was "to protect an innocent life," and not to reignite the debate over abortion. But advocates for Floridians with disabilities, and abortion-rights supporters, called the governor's action a thinly veiled attempt to curry favor with conservative religious voters.

Health problems
Born prematurely, the Miami-Dade woman weighed less than four pounds. Three weeks later, the infant contracted bacterial meningitis, her mother said, from an infection in her incubator. The illness left her having a severe disability, with fluid in her brain. She now lives in a group home in the Redland, receiving services from the Department of Children & Families.

During the hearing, Rothenberg said police consider the woman's case a rape investigation, and believe the woman may have been assaulted more than once.

DNA from the fetus, or baby, could be used to help identify the woman's assailant.

Because the woman's mother was living in Maryland when the pregnancy was discovered -- and judges are reluctant to appoint out-of-town guardians -- the Guardianship Program of Miami-Dade asked Rothenberg to declare the woman incompetent, and to grant the program authority to make decisions for her.

Dressed in a loose-fitting, peach-colored dress and sweater, the woman rested her chin on her fist as her mother stroked her other arm. She tried to speak through some of the hearing, but her sounds were impossible to understand.

Opinions
Lewis Fogle, the woman's court-appointed attorney, told Rothenberg he had looked into the woman's case, "and spoken to her, at least as much communication as seems to be possible for her."

The woman, Fogle said, "desires to have the pregnancy terminated."

The pregnancy is painful, Fogle said. A shunt inserted in the woman's brain to help drain fluid backs up every five or six days, causing her to become "violently ill."

Rothenberg said the woman's neurosurgeon, Dr. Basil Yates of Hialeah, recommended that the pregnancy be terminated. Her seizures, Rothenberg said, "trouble him the most." Evidence shows her anti-seizure medication is linked to birth defects such as spina bifida.

The woman's mother said she had been told by doctors early on that pregnancy could be life threatening to the woman.

Doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies at Jackson told the judge, however, that the woman's fetus appeared by be developing normally, and they saw no medical reason to terminate the pregnancy, Rothenberg said.

At the hearing, the woman's mother reacted angrily to the gynecologists' report.

"No one understands what the pressure is like on her brain," she told the judge. The gynecologists, she added, know her daughter only "from the waist down."

In tears during part of the hearing, the mother said it was her own grandchild -- the only one she would ever have -- that she was asking to abort.

"My main concern now is my daughter," she said. "When I heard that heartbeat, you will never know what it did to me. But I can't be asked to choose between my grandchild or my daughter."
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LittlePitty
post Sat May 24, 2003, 01:41 PM
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ahhhh...so the rights of the unborn fetus take precedent over the rights of the person carrying it???? Hmmmmmm........Pro-Life at it's best!
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Mark B.
post Sat May 24, 2003, 08:50 PM
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It's sickening to read of such inhumanity against women, especially defenseless as these women are. The rapists should automatically receive the maximum penalty (First Degree Rape), period.

Mark (IMG:http://www.deafonline2.com/forums/style_emoticons/default/sad.gif)
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PurpleGold71
post Tue Aug 12, 2003, 06:17 AM
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This is so sad...such a confusing calamity in this issue. If the pregnancy was life-threatening to the woman, the pregnancy should be terminated in order to save the woman's life. At the same time, it's hard because the baby's alive...and it seems to be developing normally...but it's preventing the woman in leading a healthy life.

Such issues like this is always super-sensitive and sticky to deal with.
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TheInterpreter
post Wed Nov 15, 2006, 04:28 PM
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Such a horrible and saddening situation. No one is at fault except the rapist, but yet either the daughter or grand daughter are the ones who end up paying for it.
Correct me if I am wrong but I thought that abortions were only able to happen during the first trimester. and she is 23 weeks pregnant? I dont know if I am correct or not but why did they let it go this far, if she didn't want the baby?
Im against abortion but this one.....talk about a difficult decision....



QUOTE (PurpleGold71 @ Tue Aug 12, 2003, 07:17 AM) *
This is so sad...such a confusing calamity in this issue. If the pregnancy was life-threatening to the woman, the pregnancy should be terminated in order to save the woman's life. At the same time, it's hard because the baby's alive...and it seems to be developing normally...but it's preventing the woman in leading a healthy life.

Such issues like this is always super-sensitive and sticky to deal with.
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