RENO, Nev. (CNS) — Pro-lifers are paying close attention to a Nevada court case involving a mentally incapacitated pregnant woman.
The Nevada Supreme Court Nov. 6 allowed a lower-court judge to continue to conduct a hearing about the pregnancy. After the court’s OK, Washoe County District Judge Egan Walker continued hearings begun Nov. 2 into the matter.
The 32-year-old woman’s parents, who are Catholic, are her legal guardians. They want their daughter to be able to continue the pregnancy, now believed to be in its 13th week. They fear that the judge will order an abortion for the woman, who has the intellectual capacity of a 6-year-old.
“The Diocese of Reno supports the desire of the parents/guardians of the woman in this case who wish to have the child brought to term,” said a Nov. 8 statement from the diocese. The woman and her parents live in the diocese. “There are couples who are willing to care for and love the baby. There is no reason or need to abort this child. Regardless, it would be immoral to do so.”
Mailee Smith, a staff counsel for Americans United for Life, said in a Nov. 8 statement to Catholic News Service: “AUL’s stance is always that abortion should never be forced upon a woman, no matter her mental abilities. Abortion carries significant physical risks, which place this woman at risk just as they do any other woman who would undergo an abortion.
“Moreover, that child is a human life, regardless of the woman’s mental capabilities,” Smith said. “We are also concerned about discriminating against people based on their capacities and denying them fundamental rights.”
Olivia Gans Turner, spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, told The Associated Press, “The fact their daughter is not as mentally mature shouldn’t take away her right to have a child.”
The state Supreme Court’s decision said Walker had the authority to monitor the woman’s welfare and hold the hearings.
“The purpose of the evidentiary hearings at this time is merely to obtain information in order to make well-reasoned and informed decisions regarding the ward’s medical care,” the unanimous decision said. “Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court has not exceeded its jurisdiction or arbitrarily or capriciously exercised its discretion.”
The high court noted the woman’s parents failed to file an annual report required by state law about their daughter’s condition and the performance of their own duties as guardians required by state law.
“From everything I see, it’s not a question of competence of the guardians, but the person, because she has a guardian is and is therefore a ward of the court and the court has an interest,” Holy Rosary Brother Matthew Cunningham, the Reno diocesan chancellor, told CNS. “How that all gets resolved, I don’t know.”
Brother Cunningham said the court first learned about the woman’s pregnancy when “a report was made by one of the persons who’s involved in her care, someone who’s involved in the county services for wards (and) must have had contact with her … and that person reported it to her superiors, and they reported it to the court as far as I know.”
He added the woman’s parents have been in contact with their pastor.
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.”
A Facebook group backing the pregnancy, SaveElisasBaby, had registered 2, 248 “likes” through midday Nov. 9.
Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.