Disabled Rape Victim Gives Birth

medicine and the law AP

A mentally disabled rape victim whose pregnancy became the center of a court battle over whether a guardian can be appointed for a fetus has given birth.

The girl, for now known as "Baby Girl S," was born by Caesarean section Saturday and placed in the temporary custody of the state Department of Children & Families.

She appeared healthy, though it likely will be months before doctors know if she has any disabilities, Patti Riley Jarrell, the mother's guardian, told the Orlando Sentinel in its Sunday editions.

The case drew national attention after Gov. Jeb Bush unsuccessfully asked the courts to appoint a guardian for the fetus, an unusual move that sparked a debate over treatment of the developmentally disabled and fetal rights.

Even though the woman has given birth, the court fight over the guardianship issue should go on, a Bush spokeswoman said Sunday.

The child's 23-year-old mother, known in court records as J.D.S., has the mental ability of a preschooler and has been living in group homes since she was a child. After she was raped in a group home in Orlando, the case for a guardian arose because she is unable to make decisions for herself.

A judge appointed Jarrell as a caretaker for the rape victim but declined to appoint a guardian for J.D.S.'s unborn child, following a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision that found appointing a guardian for a fetus was "clearly improper."

Jennifer Wixtrom, an Orlando resident who had petitioned the court with the governor's support to be the fetal guardian, appealed to the 5th District Court of Appeal, which has not ruled.

Abortion rights advocates have accused Bush of pushing the case to open the door to broadly appointing guardians for fetuses, possibly as a method for stopping abortions.

But governor's spokeswoman Alia Faraj said Sunday that Bush's interest in continuing an appeal that would allow guardians for fetuses was only to protect the interests of unborn children in extremely rare cases like that of J.D.S.

If a similar case did arise, Faraj said, "we would want both the mother and unborn child to each have a guardian to represent their best interests and ensure their well-being."

After the child's birth Saturday, Circuit Judge Jose Rodriguez granted emergency temporary custody of the infant to the state Department of Children & Families. State officials and J.D.S.'s legal guardian agreed that the newborn would be at risk if she were allowed to remain with her biological mother.

The judge also ordered DNA testing to help Orlando police investigators determine who raped the mother and appointed attorney Lisa J. Augspurger to serve as the newborn's guardian.

The rape prompted Bush to appoint a panel to investigate problems with the state's guardianship system, particularly among the developmentally disabled.

  • Melissa Cheung

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