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Anti-Abortionists Target Mentally Retarded Rape Victims

A Florida anti-abortion group is now claiming that they have persuaded a Miami judge to change his ruling in what has become a highly charged case involving a severely disabled woman who became pregnant after she was raped. The judge ruled late last week that doctors at a Florida hospital could go ahead with an abortion for a 28-year-old severely mentally retarded woman who has the cognitive skills of a 4-year-old and expressed her wishes only by telling a judge, "My baby no more." Medical officials have said that pregnancy for the woman, who is known to have extensive medical ailments, becomes increasingly life threatening as it progresses, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In addition, seizure medications taken by the woman will likely cause serious birth defects in the fetus, according to

Despite the woman's expressed desires and the life-threatening nature of her pregnancy, Liberty Counsel, a Florida anti-abortion group, filed a court request that the abortion be stopped. Both the Third District Court of Appeals and Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rothenberg denied the group's request. The group appealed the case to the Florida Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the case. Liberty Counsel is now claiming that Rothenberg changed his mind and has decided to "allow [Z.H.] who is six months pregnant to have surgery to deliver her baby," according to the Sentinel. The judge has yet to confirm or deny Liberty Counsel's claims.

Z.H. and an Orlando woman, who is also severely disabled and became pregnant after being raped, have both been drawn into the center of the abortion rights debate by anti-abortion extremists. In the Orlando case, which involves a 22-year-old woman who has the mental capacity of an infant, Governor Jeb Bush asked that her fetus be granted a guardian - despite the fact that the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that a guardian could not be granted for a fetus. The ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights and Florida NOW have filed a friend-of-the-court brief against Bush's request. A Florida judge has delayed any decision on the matter while the woman, who is almost six months pregnant, approaches the "point of pregnancy that may effectively preclude any abortion option," Boston Globe Columnist Ellen Goodman notes.

"If an unborn child carries the same legal weight as the woman, so much for abortion rights," Goodman wrote in a column about Gov. Bush and President Bush's attempts to undermine abortion rights by granting personhood to fetuses.

Media Resources: Orlando Sentinel 5/26/03, 5/28/03, 5/29/03; 5/23/03; Boston Globe 5/25/03; Christian Science

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