Mentally Disabled Florida Rape Survivor to Carry Pregnancy to Term

After much back and forth about the health risks of a pregnancy for a mentally disabled woman who became pregnant after she was raped while under the state’s care, a Florida judge approved a decision made by the woman’s court-appointed guardian to carry her pregnancy to term. Known only as JDS, the 22-year-old woman has the mental capacity of an infant and does not even know that she is pregnant. Patti Riley Jarrell, her court-appointed guardian, decided that it was in JDS’ best interest to complete the pregnancy rather than have an abortion, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

Women’s rights advocates have expressed concern over the court’s decision. “JDS is a rape victim. She has the mental capacity of a toddler,” Carla Josephson, president of the Orlando National Organization for Women told the Sentinel. “So I question how it can be in the best interest of a toddler to go through a pregnancy and delivery. None of this is improving her life.” After JDS gives birth, expected within two months, the Florida Department of Children & Families will take custody of the newborn. The child will then most likely be placed in a foster home and put up for adoption.

In the meantime, Governor Jeb Bush is continuing efforts to appoint a guardian for the fetus that JDS is carrying. Although a Florida judge has already said that there is no legal basis for such a request – a ruling affirmed by a similar Florida Supreme Court decision in 1989 – Bush continues with what is a loosely veiled attempt to undermine abortion rights by granting legal personhood to a fetus.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Florida National Organization for Women have filed a 23-page brief with the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Florida opposing Bush’s request.

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Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 6/27/03; Orlando Sentinel 6/26/03; Associated Press 6/25/03; CNN.com 5/30/03

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