Thirteen weeks ago, a 32-year-old Nevada woman with intellectual disabilities and epilepsy, Elizabeth E.Bauer, became pregnant when she wandered away from her Reno group home in Reno. William and Amy Bauer, her adoptive parents and legal guardians, describe the woman as having the mental capacity of a 6-year-old and say that they want her to have the baby.
But a Washoe County District judge, Egan Walker, has said that he has the authority to order that the woman have an abortion, over the objections of the Bauers. The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the judge can gather evidence “to make well-reasoned and informed decisions regarding the ward’s medical care” and to determine if her pregnancy should be terminated for the sake of her health.
As the Las Vegas Sun reports, the Bauers argue that they, as the woman’s guardians, should make the decision regarding her pregnancy. Citing their Catholic religious beliefs, they say that Bauer has told them she wishes to continue her pregnancy. Six couples have indicated they are interested in adopting the baby, says the Associated Press.
The Bauers say they are aware of medical complications for their daughter and for the baby. As they tell the Associated Press, medical experts support their decision. But the Washoe County Public Guardian Office has found that Elizabeth Bauer “could not make up her mind if she wanted to give birth,” says the Las Vegas Sun. The Public Guardian Office also stated that Bauer takes medications “that place both her and her fetus at high risk for a complicated pregnancy and the high potentiality of having a physically, neurologically affected infant birth.”
Other doctors who testified in court stated “varying opinions” about whether or not Bauer should continue her pregnancy or have an abortion, says Disabiilty Scoop.
Jason Guinasso, a lawyer for William and Amy Bauer, says that it is not clear if their daughter became pregnant through rape or consensual sex.
To say that Bauer’s case poses numerous ethical dilemmas is an understatement. What happened to Bauer is the nightmare of every parent of a child, of any age, with intellectual disabilities, including my husband and me for our teenage son Charlie.
In addition to medical concerns, at issue is Bauer’s cognitive ability. A full investigation should be undertaken about how she became pregnant and, indeed, if she was raped. Given what the Bauers say is her level of cognitive functioning, the trauma of her possibly being raped must be taken into account all the more, as well as her becoming pregnant. Some serious questions must be also asked about the level of care for Bauer in the Reno group home. Why was she “wandering” outside it, apparently without staff accompanying her?
The focus on whether or not Bauer should have an abortion overlooks a simple fact. A woman with, according to those who are her legal guardians, intellectual disabilities, was possibly raped. Her care, safety and health must be take priority in whatever decision is made regarding her continuing with her pregnancy, or not.
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