A 32 year old Nevada woman whose developmental disabilities leave her with the mental capacity of a six year old will not have her pregnancy terminated. This news comes according to court documents detailing an agreement reached by both parties in a court case that had attracted national attention from people on both sides of the abortion debate.
Elisa Bauer, the woman in question, lived in a group home setting with several other developmentally disabled adults and supervisory personnel. She managed to evade security and wander away from the group home, where she apparently had sex. The father of the child Bauer is carrying has not yet been identified or located. Because her communication abilities are not fully developed, the court could not determine whether she had consented to the sexual activity or whether it was forcible.
When staff at the group home realized Bauer was pregnant, she was taken to a doctor, who recommended an abortion. Bauer's fetal alcohol syndrome has led to several health problems, including epilepsy and bipolar disorder, that require medications that can have negative health consequences for fetal life.
However, the Bauers, who had adopted Elisa from Costa Rica when she was already 12 years old, disagreed with the doctor's recommendation. They consider themselves devout Catholics, and due to their anti-abortion beliefs wished to have Elisa carry her child to term.
Upon hearing the decision the Bauers had made, state social services authorities became involved in the case. A guardian ad litem was appointed for Elisa Bauer, and a hearing was requested to determine whether the abortion was in Bauer's best interest given the health risks involved.
Although Bauer's parents attempted to have the hearings blocked, the judge ruled against them. However, in order to avoid more courtroom battles over their daughter's pregnancy, they began to develop a plan in conjunction with doctors to help control the risks of Elisa's high risk pregnancy.
Rather than forcing Elisa Bauer to have an abortion, judge Egan Walker intends to have the court hold additional hearings regarding the best way to proceed in order to minimize any risks to Elisa's health or the health of her soon to be born baby.
Parental healthcare decisions for children have been a complicated issue in jurisprudence for decades, especially in cases involving adults with mental impairments that cause them to require legal guardians. Bauer's parents, as her legal guardians, claimed in court hearings that they had exclusive rights to determine how their daughter's medical treatment would proceed. However, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that this was not correct, and that hearings could determine the proper course of medical treatment if the judge ruled them to be in Elisa's best interest.
Doctors in the case have stated that Bauer's epilepsy and bipolar disorder medications can be responsible for birth complications and defects, but that other patients with these disorders have carried pregnancies to term in the past with few ill effects, provided their pregnancies are managed with appropriate high-risk prenatal care.
Sources: ap.com, abcnews.com