Groups Granted Motion in Mentally Disabled FL Rape Case

In what is becoming an increasingly moot point for the severely disabled, pregnant 22-year-old woman who was raped while in state custody and due to give birth later this month, Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals last week granted an emergency motion, giving abortion-rights and civil rights groups “friends of the court” status in an appeal involving Jennifer Wixtrom, who seeks guardianship of the woman’s fetus and the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). Last June, Orange County, Florida, Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Kirkwood appointed a guardian for the woman (known as J.D.S.) but denied Governor Jeb Bush’s (R) request to appoint a guardian for the fetus. Stating that state law offered no basis for such an appointment and that a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling deemed the appointment of a fetal guardian “clearly improper,” Kirkwood also rejected Wixtrom’s request for guardianship. Wixtrom filed an appeal, with the DCF supporting her position, in the case misleadingly termed Wixtrom vs. DCF, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Under the latest court order, the abortion-rights groups and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Florida National Organization for Women will now have an opportunity to present an adversarial position. Pro-choice advocates say the case is yet another loosely veiled attempt to undermine abortion rights by granting legal personhood to a fetus.

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Orlando Sentinel Kaisernetwork 8/4/03, 8/15/03, 8/19/03; Orlando Sentinel 8/16/03; Associated Press 8/16/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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