The last 24 hours marked a critical turning point for a 24-week-old unborn baby thrust into the center of an abortion debate, as a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge first agreed to allow its live birth and then reversed himself, authorizing an abortion to take place.
The Miami Herald reports the abortion was completed last evening, without complication, and the mother, a 28-year-old mentally disabled woman who was raped at a group home for women with disabilities, is recovering well. Detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department took custody of a sample of the aborted baby to help them identify the father and build a criminal case against him.
Police believe the woman was raped, and likely more than once.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the woman, whose identity is not being revealed, is mentally retarded with the cognitive abilities of a 4-year-old, deaf, prone to having seizures and has a shunt in her brain to drain excess fluid.
Late last week, Circuit Judge Arthur Rothenberg ruled in favor of the disabled woman’s mother and ordered the pregnancy be terminated, after a neurologist testified that carrying the pregnancy to full term could cause the mother problems with her shunt and might have resulted in the baby being deformed.
Three physicians had testified the woman could carry the baby full term with no problems.
“My main concern now is my daughter,” the mother told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel following last week’s hearing. “When I heard that heartbeat, you will never know what it did to me. But I can’t be asked to choose between my grandchild or my daughter.”
At the behest of the woman’s mother, doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital reportedly scheduled an abortion two weeks ago, but chose not to perform it because the baby appeared to be developing normally and there was no medical reason to terminate the pregnancy.
The judge then became the arbiter of the unborn baby’s fate after the disabled woman’s court-appointed guardian signaled it couldn’t reach a decision on the matter and filed a petition seeking his instruction.
Lewis Fogle, the disabled woman’s court-appointed attorney, told Rothenberg that after looking into the case and communicating with her as much as he could, he concluded she wanted an abortion.
“My baby no more,” the disabled woman reportedly told the judge at the hearing last week.
In addition to authorizing the termination of the pregnancy, Rothenberg also ordered the 28-year-old be sterilized to prevent future pregnancies.
The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit civil liberties education and legal-defense organization, appealed the judge’s order all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
“We’re disappointed and saddened by what we feel is the unnecessary loss of life,” Erik Stanley, the group’s litigation counsel, told WorldNetDaily. “And we’re angered by the lack of response by the judiciary.”
According to Stanley, Florida law protects unborn babies, especially after the third trimester, which is defined as after 24 weeks. He said the law requires that two physicians consent in writing that an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother and that the guardian must also consent.
“The standards were not met in this case,” said Stanley.
“It’s unfortunate [the mother] would think there was a choice to be made between the life of her daughter and the life of the baby,” he continued. “Neither life was in jeopardy. This was an artificial emergency created by unsubstantiated testimony.”
After Liberty Counsel’s appeal to the Florida high court was shot down Wednesday morning, the organization went to work to negotiate a compromise with the judge. By Wednesday night, the group said it had persuaded the judge to allow for a live birth.
Stanley said they had convinced the judge that he had ordered the “termination” of the pregnancy, not necessarily an abortion, and that an early live birth could constitute as termination.
“The only difference between a C-section abortion [the medical procedure used for the abortion and sterilization] and a C-section delivery is the injection of sodium pentathol through the uterus into the baby to kill the baby,” explained Stanley. “And the medical testimony of a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies [at the hearing on the appeal earlier this week] was that if the baby was taken out alive, it had a 60 percent chance of survival.”
After verbally agreeing to the live birth, the judge got a call from a doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital who said the baby’s chances of survival was only 10 percent. The judge then changed his mind on the live birth.
”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,” Rothenberg said in a statement explaining his final decision. “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.”
“There are people lining up to take this baby,” said Stanley, noting his organization had received hundreds of offers for adoption in the last week. “And when there’s no greater risk to have this baby alive, it raises serious questions about late-term abortion.”
The Liberty Counsel plans to file an amicus brief in a strikingly similar case of a disabled 22-year-old Orlando woman who was also raped while under the care of Florida child-welfare authorities. A large portion of the brief will be based on lessons learned from the Miami case.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Gov. Jeb Bush has asked a judge to appoint a guardian to represent the interests of the unborn baby.
“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,” Bush said in a statement. “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.”
The ACLU, along with the National Organization for Women and Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a court brief asking the court to deny the governor’s request, claiming such a judgment would go against precedent that a “fetus” is not a person.
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