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Woman With Disability May Be Forced To End Pregnancy


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In a case that’s drawing national attention, a court in Nevada may decide whether or not a woman with intellectual disability should continue her pregnancy.

The 32-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld for her privacy, was living in a group home when she became pregnant. It is unknown who the father of the child is, exactly what circumstances surround the baby’s conception or if the woman would like to continue the pregnancy.

Now, a judge is weighing whether or not the woman, who is said to have the mental abilities of a 6-year-old, should be forced to terminate against the wishes of her adoptive parents who are Catholic.

Doctors who testified in court expressed varying opinions about whether or not proceeding with the pregnancy would pose risks to the woman’s health, reports KOLO, the Reno, Nev. ABC affiliate.

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Comments (27 Responses)

  1. Karen Driver says:

    If there were cameras in group and nursing homes, we may know how she became pregnant . . . protection, not an invasion of privacy . . . a choice, just like those of us outside of group homes can make. If common sense were not illegal, a tracking bracelet could be used to locate her when she disappears. How can we say she has right a privacy from cameras, but not the protection from continued abuse those cameras would provide? How can we say she has a right to privacy – free from tracking, but not free from the predators that the tracking would prevent? You cannot take her Rights away as a soon-to-be parent AFTER not protecting her Right to the safety of never being in this situation to begin with! Again, only if common sense were legal!

  2. KA101 says:

    Well, that’s about as antichoice a scenario as I recall happening in recent memory. Nobody even asked this woman whether she wants to terminate or retain her pregnancy, but someone petitioned the court to abort?

    As for the mental-capacity-of-a-six-year-old argument? Insufficient data to argue actual capacity, so OK, I’ll take a shot at explaining. Any six-year-olds in the audience, feel free to read and ask if you don’t understand.

    “[Name], you may have felt odd recently. That’s because you are pregnant. If you want, we can help you become unpregnant. Or, you can decide to stay pregnant and, if nothing bad happens, eventually give birth.

    Now, being pregnant to the point of birth will permanently change some parts of your body. Sometimes it will hurt, and sometimes you might feel sick. Sometimes it feels nice, too. Those are common parts of pregnancy. If you give birth, people will complain that you can’t take care of the infant. Because you are in [the group home], the government will want you to prove that you can take care of the infant. So, unless you can prove that you can take care of the child, the government will have other people be the child’s mom and dad.

    If you want to become unpregnant, you will need to go to a special doctor’s office for an initial appointment, and then the doctor will help you understand how [she/he] can help you become unpregnant. You can decide if you want to do what the doctor suggests, but if you want to become unpregnant, working with the doctor is the best way to do it. There will be mean people around the doctor’s office who will try to make you feel bad about seeing the doctor. Remember that they won’t help you if you decide not to see the doctor or not work with the doctor, though. They will simply cheer that they got you to change your mind and ignore you if you need help later.

    Do you have any questions?”

    [In case it isn’t clear, KA101 is pro-choice.]

  3. Marsha Katz says:

    Heartwrenching story! However this awful no-win situation turns out, I hope that DNA tests are done to determine the father of the baby, and prosecute him for rape if that is, in fact, what happened. So few details in the story so it’s hard to know what really happened here, and what the legalities are.In any event, this is all just so sad.

  4. Melissa says:

    Why are there so little details in such an important piece of news? This is irresponsible reporting. Who petitioned the court for a termination? What is their reasoning? Who do the grandparents say will raise the child if the woman goes through with the pregnancy? Just a few questions that can be answered without invading the woman’s privacy!

  5. David says:

    Not sure about a lot of the details, but if the lady is her own guardian, then the court has no right to make this decision. If it has been legally determined that she is incompetent, then some has been appointed guardian. In this case the lady and her legal guardian need to make the decision together. Pretty simple, the court does not have a say in this either way – that is just my two cents.

  6. Wendi Shifflette says:

    The world is mad. Too many Gods!!!!

  7. Theresa Rhodus says:

    How can it not be rape? If you have sex with a 6 year old it’s rape. No possible way to consent. If they use her mental capacity to determine if she should have to abort it should be in play on consent.

  8. Kim says:

    I pray the baby will live, and be adopted if that is best for it. I pray we are getting the whole truth from the media also. The court should NOT have this kind of authority, especially when her adoptive parents have said NO. Obviously they are able to make the decisions necessary for the baby’s well being. Doesn’t anybody realise we are dealing with a LIFE here?

  9. blizlady says:

    If she has a guardian, which it seems she does if her adoptive parents are involved, it should be a decision left up to her parents. This is just as bad as the biological father of one of my grandchildren petitioning the court for custody of their child just because my daughter has physical disabilities! And to make it worse the judge agreed!!

  10. Vikki Stefans says:

    I have to take issue with one statement below, “There will be mean people around the doctor’s office who will try to make you feel bad about seeing the doctor. Remember that they won’t help you if you decide not to see the doctor or not work with the doctor, though. They will simply cheer that they got you to change your mind and ignore you if you need help later.” Where I live, some the “mean people” also staff a crisis pregnancy center right across the road from the abortion clinic and will definitely provide help.

  11. Gael McCarthy says:

    Over forty years ago I worked for company that collected and studied medical data. During one study, I kept seeing vasectomies and tubal ligations being performed on young, and middle teenagers in one hospital by one doctor. Outraged, I took the info to one of our supervising physician surgeons. He, too, ws concerned and called the doctor. He was told the doctor was authorized to perform these procedures on the young adults by court order resulting from their parents (guardians) because the young people had inflated libidos because they were Down Syndrome, or had very low intellectual abilities. The parents wanted to protect them from pregnancies since thew knew the young people would be unable to care and support the babies. Reasonable, I thought at the time, but since then, I’ve know Downies who could handle the job. In today’s world the question is bigger yet: Do we automatically sterilize young people who cannot control their libido, or, do we let them get pregnant, and then abort????? It is definitely an ethical nightmare. How do we legislate this…..and who makes the decisions?? Any thoughts?

  12. JCP says:

    To Gael McCarthy…Seriously, do you really go around referring to people with Downs Syndrome as “Downies”??? Have a little respect!

  13. Jakki says:

    This young woman should be allowed to carry her baby to term and then make an adoption plan. With her low intelligence she could not parent the baby.

    Should the baby be born with some type of disability, there are people who are willing and wanting to adopt special needs children. My own adopted daughter has cerebral palsy and her adoptive father and I knew this when we adopted her.

    To force a woman to have an abortion is barbaric let alone immoral.

  14. JP says:

    No. Her parents are her guardians and their wishes should be respected. Who knows her better than them?a

  15. KA101 says:

    Right. Glad to see that the explanation seems to be acceptable.
    (CPCs, in my experience, tend to be less-than-helpful. Handy if one is an anti-choicer wanting to derail women seeking control over their reproductive systems, though.)

    Cameras may or may not deter a predator, and certainly can’t intervene. If for some reason screening, staff, and similar proactive measures can’t deter predators (and why not?), staff can at least respond to an emergency button or similar call, whilst refraining from denying inmates their right to privacy.

    Indeed we are talking about a life: this woman’s.

    The idea of “protecting” Down’s Syndrome folks from the possibility of pregnancy seems like old-fashioned eugenics, and is about as bad an idea now as it was back in the day. Last I heard, the term “Downies” wasn’t something the Down’s community appreciated. Seems more like a diminutive. Might want to avoid those sorts of problems in future, thanks.

  16. Glen S says:

    Vikki: That is the only part of the poster’s comments with which to take issue? How about the entire premise on which the post is based? First, the post reveals inconsistencies from the poster’s stated believes. She believes is self determination, yet she clearly is attempting to sway this young lady. Second, her comments are at least as condescending as any other post read, and reveals a contempt that is at least as bad as those involved in the real story. Finally, “unpregnant.” As if it was possible to simply turn off the changes that have already occurred!

  17. Terrie says:

    Key points to this discussion. 1) She has a 6 year old mentality. 2) She lives in a group home so her adoptive parents could not give her the necessary care she needed. 3) She may not have been raped because it may have been done by an adult with the same mental capacity. 4) How was she able to be alone with someone long enough to get pregnant?

    Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, do you really want to put this woman (child) in the position of giving birth because of your beliefs?

  18. Amanda says:

    In the news report they say that she have been know to have sex outside of the group home environment. In hindsight she needed to have been educated and offered birth control. I agree with KA101. It sounds like they need to share with her some stories about pregnancy and motherhood, let her visit some fully pregnant women and mothers of small children and let her make a choice. I vividly remember when I was five/six and saw my first documentary on PBS about how babies are made and birthed back before they added personality drama for entertainment value.

  19. Leo Pusateri says:

    If this was a rape (in actuality, I doubt a person with the cognitive capacity of a six year old can give informed consent for sex), the last person to receive the death penalty should be the innocent developing child.

  20. therealthunderchild says:

    Sorry. But all I can see is people using their “faith” to compell somebody to be a rape instigated incubator for a grandchild. If they care about “innocent” children how about caring for the one who was raped instead of doubly raping her by forcing birth on her?
    Don’t they get it? Even if the rapist is caught he’d very probably be able to sue for custody when he gets out of gaol, assuming he’s found guilty.
    And if the woman’s parents die the rapist’s can possibly get custody.
    And if the state steps in, the child might be adopted. So a child-for surely this woman is a child-will have gone through rape, and pregnancy just to be an unconsenting vessel for other’s designs.
    An atrocity of biblical proprtions.and one I think youl find the Catholic church would condone.
    Given that they too have a rape. Exception for abortion.

  21. Will, DCS says:

    Remember Buck v. Bell? If we as people with disabilities, advocates, family and friends choose not to learn from history, we are doomed to watch as it repeats all over us yet again.

  22. Glen S says:

    therealthunderchild: Actually, you have it all in reverse. It is the courts which want to “compel.” It is the courts which want to take away the choice.

    KA101: “Last I heard, the term “Downies” wasn’t something the Down’s community appreciated.” This coming from the one who used “Autie,” “Spectrumite,” and “NT.” Last I heard, none of these were something their respective communities appreciated.

  23. therealthunderchild says:

    Think it through.
    The rapist “compelled” her to sexual intercourse and pregnancy.
    Grandchild hungry parents are “compelling” birth on her.
    None of which she has consented to.
    That’s rape.
    How will they explain this to her?
    Would you do that to your six year old.
    So- Mourdoch or AkinN “legitimate” rape, or a “gift” from god?

  24. Therese says:

    Definately not enough info on the case, and definately alot of different opinions and feelings.

    But this is one of the things that runs through my mind and terrifies me when it comes to placing my daughter in a group home, as I know must be done before I die ….. I do know if they find the man responsible – and it was not something the “children” figured out and did together on their own – cause it can happen that way – he’d be dead man.

  25. Grant says:

    It is hard to comment on this situation not knowing all the information/laws, but based on what I’ve heard and read I just don’t see her keeping the child as being a good thing. I notice a lot of people are letting their emotions get the best of them when discussing this topic, I believe it would be better to look at this from a more logical perspective. The mother has numerous physical/mental disabilities which inhibit her from thinking and acting as an adult, and she lives in a care home with she has escaped from repeatedly to have sex with strangers at a truck stop. Logically or legally can you say that she is fit enough mentally and physically to decide to give birth and take care of a child? I don’t think so. I think the child would have a higher chance of physical/cognitive problems genetically, and would probably develop social/emotional problems if allowed to interact extensively with the mother. Finally, both could die if she does decide to give birth. To me the courts would not be totally wrong in forcing her to have an abortion. However, I think the key to all of this is the adoptive parents. If the parents have the power to decide, then they should be responsible for taking care of the child or putting the child up for adoption. It will be interesting to hear what the final decision the courts make on this issue.

  26. pav says:

    DNA— they can find out who it is…

    Does she even know what an abortion is?

  27. Jennifer says:

    It should depend on how capable she is. It should be done like in the movie “I am Sam” . She can still see the child but visiting with the parents. It’s God’s child something always can be worked out.

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