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May 24, 2003

Miami rape victim will have abortion

From: Orlando Sentinel, FL - May 24, 2003

From Wire reports

MIAMI -- A judge Friday authorized doctors to perform an abortion for a 28-year-old retarded, deaf and seizure-prone rape victim in Miami.

Circuit Judge Arthur Rothenberg gave permission to doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital to abort the nearly 6-month-old fetus. The judge also authorized doctors to perform a tubal ligation so the woman can't become pregnant again.

In a similar case in Orlando, a severely retarded woman who became pregnant from a rape is at the center of an abortion controversy after Gov. Jeb Bush said he wants a guardian to be named for her fetus.

The 22-year-old Orlando woman is about six months pregnant. She is autistic, suffers from seizure disorder and has the mental capacity of a 1-year-old.

The woman, identified in court records only as J.D.S., has been in group homes since she was 3, cannot speak for herself, has no family and does not have a legal guardian. Her lack of a guardian is a key area that separates her case from the one in Miami, where the victim's mother has been speaking on her behalf.

Police think the Miami woman, who has the cognitive skills of a 4-year-old, likely was raped more than once.

Medical officials have said the woman's life may be in danger if she carries the child to full term. The fetus also is in serious risk of being deformed because of the woman's medications, they said.

The woman, whose identity was not revealed, managed to tell Rothenberg her wishes during a Thursday hearing. "My baby no more," she said.

The woman's lawyer said she appeared to be pleased with the ruling.

"She can't verbalize much of anything, but you can see by her actions that she is happy," attorney Lewis H. Fogle Jr. said. He did not know when the procedure would be performed.

The judge was told by doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies at Jackson that the fetus appeared to be developing normally and there was no medical reason to terminate the pregnancy. The hospital declined to comment Friday.

But the Miami woman's mother said she had been told by doctors early on that pregnancy could be life-threatening to her daughter, who became disabled from bacterial meningitis when she was 3 weeks old.

"I'm glad she won't have to suffer anymore," said the woman's mother, who had asked the judge to allow the abortion.

"What mother doesn't want the opportunity to be a grandmother? I've been robbed of that. But I feel like I was also robbed of motherhood by what happened to her, through no fault of her own, or mine," the mother told The Miami Herald.

"Now, here we are again, stricken with a tragedy that is neither one's fault."

© 2003 Orlando Sentinel Communications