RENO, Nev. (AP) — In a case watched by national anti-abortion organizations, a Nevada couple is trying to block a judge from holding hearings that it fears could result in the termination of their mentally disabled daughter’s pregnancy.
The couple filed a motion asking the Nevada Supreme Court to halt the proceedings by Washoe County District Judge Egan Walker, claiming he lacks authority to make such a decision for their 32-year-old daughter, who has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old.
The couple says they have exclusive authority over their daughter’s health care decisions as her legal guardians, and both they and the woman want to carry the baby to term in line with their Catholic religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court has set a noon Monday deadline for the judge and county officials to respond to the request to halt evidentiary hearings into the woman’s health. The hearings are scheduled to resume Tuesday.
The couple acknowledges the pregnancy poses health risks to their daughter and the baby, but they say medical experts back them in their decision to continue the pregnancy. The woman was living in a Reno group home when she wandered away from it and became pregnant 13 weeks ago. The child’s father has not been identified, said attorney Jason Guinasso, who represents the Nevada couple.
Guinasso said it’s unknown whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or consensual sex, and The Associated Press is not naming the woman or her parents because it remains unclear. The circumstances are under investigation by the county public guardian’s office.
“Does she understand all the risk? I doubt it,” said Guinasso. “But we do know the guardians understand the risk, and they’re the ones given the authority and responsibility to make the decision. They have a perfectly healthy baby and mother.”
Six couples have expressed an interest in adopting the baby, they woman’s parents said.
At a court hearing Thursday, two medical experts testified that the pregnancy carries risks because the woman has epilepsy and is on medication. But they split on whether the pregnancy should be terminated.
The court gave the woman’s parents guardianship for her when she became 18.
Last month, the judge denied the couple’s request to allow the woman to move back home with them and to halt the proceedings.
Deputy District Attorney Dania Reid stressed there has been no motion or discussion to order an abortion in the case.
She noted Walker appointed the county public guardian’s office as a “neutral fact-finder” to investigate the pregnant woman’s condition in regard to her medical, psychiatric and group home care.
“It’s not the county’s role in this case to make any findings of conclusions whether or not this pregnancy should continue,” Reid told The Associated Press. “That’s entirely up to the court.”
Olivia Gans Turner, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based organizations National Right to Life and American Victims of Abortion, said the Nevada couple have drawn the support of pro-life advocates nationwide.
“This is a cause we support,” she said. “It’s definitely their right to protect their daughter’s right to have a child and to protect the life of their grandchild. There’s no reason for this woman to be subjected to the danger and risk of an abortion because someone else thinks she’s not worthy of having a child because of her mental condition.”
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