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In abortion fight, disabled woman's parents turn to Nevada high court

November 05, 2012|By John M. Glionna

The parental guardians of a 32-year-old pregnant disabled woman have asked the Nevada Supreme Court to block a judge from holding hearings that antiabortion activists believe could end in the termination of the woman’s pregnancy.

The couple on Friday filed a motion asking the state’s highest court to halt the proceedings by Washoe County District Judge Egan Walker, saying he lacks authority to make such a decision for their mentally impaired daughter, who officials say has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old.

The Supreme Court had set a midday Monday deadline for the judge and county officials to respond to the request to halt evidentiary hearings -- scheduled to resume on Tuesday -- into the woman's health.

The couple, who have remained anonymous, said that as their daughter's  legal guardians, they have exclusive authority over her healthcare decisions, and that both they and she want the baby carried to term, in line with their Catholic religious beliefs.

“The man is an Anglican priest and the woman is Catholic and they say their faith dictates against abortion,” Kim Guinasso, a lawyer who along with her husband is representing the couple, told the Los Angeles Times. “They are her guardians and, under Nevada law, are entitled to make healthcare decisions for their daughter.”

The lawyer said the woman was adopted along with several siblings from Costa Rica. She suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome, along with several other maladies. She reportedly has an IQ of 42. The woman was living in a Reno group home when she wandered away and became pregnant 13 weeks ago. The child's father has not been identified and it remains unknown whether the pregnancy was the result of rape or consensual sex.

The couple acknowledges that the pregnancy poses health risks to their daughter and the baby, but they say medical experts back them in their decision to continue the pregnancy, Guinasso said.

“They know the pregnancy and birth come with risks, but they are aware of the risks of terminating the baby as well,” she told The Times.

Six couples have expressed interest in adopting the baby, the woman's parents said.

At a court hearing last Thursday, two medical experts testified that the pregnancy carries risks because the woman has epilepsy and is on medication. But they were split on whether the pregnancy should be terminated, the lawyer said.

Olivia Gans Turner, spokeswoman for the Washington-based organizations National Right to Life and American Victims of Abortion, told the Associated Press that the Nevada couple had drawn the support of abortion foes nationwide.

"This is a cause we support," she said. "It's definitely their right to protect their daughter's right to have a child and to protect the life of their grandchild. There's no reason for this woman to be subjected to the danger and risk of an abortion because someone else thinks she's not worthy of having a child because of her mental condition."

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