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Disabled woman undergoes court-approved abortion

MIAMI (BP)–A mentally impaired south Florida rape victim underwent a court-authorized abortion May 29 after intervention efforts by pro-life advocates failed.

Doctors aborted the nearly six-month-old unborn child at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital after a two-week legal battle over the baby’s fate, The Miami Herald reported. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Arthur Rothenberg considered ordering a live Cesarean section at the request of Liberty Counsel, a pro-life law organization, but decided early May 29 to permit the abortion, according to The Herald.

The case is similar to one still under consideration in the Orlando, Fla., area. A mentally disabled rape victim, 22, is pregnant with a baby more than five months old. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called May 13 for the appointment of a guardian for the unborn child.

The women in both cases reportedly were raped while living in group homes for the disabled.

The 28-year-old woman whose baby was aborted in Miami had been disabled since having bacterial meningitis three weeks after birth, according to The Herald. As a result, she has the mental abilities of a 4-year-old, is deaf and suffers seizures, the newspaper reported. The woman’s mother sought an abortion, according to the report.

The Miami-Dade Circuit courts office issued a statement on behalf of Rothenberg May 29, according to The Herald: “The mother of the ward did not want her daughter to be subjected to any more of an invasive procedure than was absolutely necessary to terminate the pregnancy and for a tubal ligation. She objected strongly to a C-section, which would have been required to attempt a live birth. This, taken together with the greater weight of medical opinion that the fetus was subject to an extremely high risk of morbidity, foreclosed brief reconsideration of alternatives.”

The judge stated at a hearing the week before that the woman’s neurologist said a full-term pregnancy would be dangerous for his patient, according to the paper. He authorized an abortion May 23, but the Florida-based Liberty Counsel intervened after the Memorial Day weekend, seeking a halt to the procedure and the appointment of guardians, according to the report. Rothenberg turned down the motion, and appeals to the Third District Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court failed, The Herald reported.

According to the paper, Rothenberg considered late May 28 a live-birth order, but physicians told him the child had only a 10 percent chance to survive and likely would be severely disabled if he lived, according to The Herald.

Specialists in high-risk pregnancies had told Rothenberg, however, the unborn child “appeared to be developing normally and there was no medical reason to terminate the pregnancy,” The Herald reported.

The Christian Coalition of Florida, which also advocated for a guardian for the unborn child, contended in an e-mail a live birth and an abortion both would require anesthesia and involve the same risks.

In the Orlando case, Florida’s Department of Children and Families, with the support of Bush and DCF Secretary Jerry Reiger, is seeking separate guardians for both the mother and her unborn baby. Abortion-rights advocates criticized Bush for the action. He did not attempt to intervene in the Miami case.

In a statement, Bush said, “While others may interpret this case in light of their own positions, we see it as the singular tragedy it is and remain focused on serving the best interests of this particular victim and her unborn child. This is a uniquely troubling situation in which the mother’s severe incapacitation renders her unable to make decisions regarding her own well being and that of her unborn child. Given the facts of this case, it is entirely appropriate that an advocate be appointed to represent the unborn child’s best interests in all decisions.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, with reporting by James A. Smith Sr.

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