Nevada Judge Won't Force Mentally Impaired Woman to Have Abortion

RENO, Nev. – A Washoe County district judge has decided against forcing a mentally impaired Nevada woman to have an abortion after all the parties involved reached a tentative agreement to help her through her high-risk pregnancy.

The 32-year-old woman's legal guardian told KRNV-TV on Wednesday that Judge Egan Walker had agreed that the woman wants to carry the pregnancy to term and that the evidence doesn't show it's medically necessary to abort the baby.

After taking the abortion option off the table, Walker said he plans to hold additional medical evidentiary hearings in the weeks ahead to determine the safest way to proceed.

The woman, who has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old, had wandered from a Reno group home that she was living in and became pregnant 13 weeks ago. The child's father has not been identified, and it's unknown whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or consensual sex, according to court documents. The Associated Press is not naming the woman or her parental guardians because those circumstances remain unclear.

The court became involved in late September, when officials with Social Services voiced concerns about the effects that her medication could have on the fetus. The case quickly drew attention from anti-abortion advocates nationally.

The woman's parents said that while the pregnancy poses health risks to their daughter and the baby, medical experts back their decision to continue the pregnancy.

Melissa Clement, president of Nevada Right to Life, praised the judge's announcement that abortion no longer was an alternative.

"We are pleased (the pregnant woman) will be able to carry her baby to term and that the court recognized that childbirth is a natural process and is the generally accepted course of treatment for pregnancy," she said in a statement.

Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court denied a request to block Walker's hearings into the health risks of the woman's pregnancy. The woman's parents argued that the judge lacked the authority to terminate the pregnancy of their daughter.

They claimed they have exclusive authority over her health care decisions, and they want their daughter to carry the baby to term in line with their Catholic religious beliefs.

The state Supreme Court disagreed, but the tentative agreement apparently makes the point moot.

The couple from Fernley adopted the woman and several siblings from Costa Rica in 1992, and they were appointed as her legal guardians when she turned 18. She suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy.

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