Guardianship of disabled rape victim’s foetus debated in court

A JUDGE postponed debate on Wednesday night over whether a guardian should be appointed for the six-month-old foetus of a mentally disabled rape victim, in a case that has attracted the involvement of Governor Jeb Bush and pro-choice activists.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups filed a brief on Tuesday after Bush ordered state lawyers to seek the appointment of a guardian for the foetus.

The brief claims that such a judgment would go against a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling, which said foetuses cannot have guardians because they are not legally people.

During the hearing, Judge Lawrence Kirkwood extended state custody over the woman for 60 days, but said arguments over whether she and her foetus should have guardians appointed would be heard later.

An attorney for the ACLU, the National Organisation for Women and Centre for Reproductive Rights said a delay could endanger the mother’s life. “If the guardian decided that the woman needed to have an abortion for whatever reason, if it was in her best interests, the longer they wait the more problematic it becomes,” said Lisa Tietig.

Bush, an abortion opponent, said his decision was based solely on doing what’s right for the woman and her unborn child.

The 22-year-old woman has lived in a nursing home since she was 3. She has no family, is too disabled to speak and cannot help police find out who impregnated her. Identification of her attacker has been hampered because the woman is unable to consent to a DNA test until someone is appointed to speak for her on that issue.

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