A California judge will decide today whether a paralyzed mother, Abbie Dorn, who cannot eat, speak or move, has a constitutional right to visits with her three young children.
Dorn, 34, suffered severe brain damage after the birth of her triplets in 2006. She cannot move on her own, and remains in bed unless one of her caretakers moves her to a chair.
Dorn's parents say she has a right to see her kids and watch them grow up. Their father, Dan Dorn, argues that lengthy visits with a motionless woman will only traumatize their young children. He has been raising the children – two boys and a girl – as a single parent for nearly five years.
Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller heard closing arguments from both sides today. Attorney Lisa Helfend Meyer, representing Abbie Dorn, said there is no proof her paralysis does harm to her children. Dan Dorn's attorney, Vicki Greene, has argued that the constitutional right to visit with one's children is reserved for fit parents only.
After closing arguments, the court was closed for a private session. Shaller is expected to decide whether Dorn must grant regular visitation rights to his ex-wife by the end of the day.
Abbie Dorn saw her children for four days last December; before that, she had not seen them for more than three years.
"A mother needs to see her children. She gave them life. Her blood is in their veins," Paul Cohen, Abbie Dorn's father, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" last year. "These children need to know they have a mommy, and she needs to know her children are growing."
A parental-rights lawsuit, brought by Abbie Dorn's parents, Paul and Susan Cohen, is expected to go through the legal process later.
The events that led to the legal battle began on June 20, 2006, when Abbie Dorn gave birth to her sons Reuvi and Yossi, and her daughter Esti. She delivered the first two children without incident, but a doctor accidentally nicked Dorn's uterus during Yossi's delivery. Before doctors could stop the bleeding, her heart had stopped, a defibrillator they used malfunctioned, and her brain was deprived of oxygen.
A suit over her medical care was eventually settled out of court for more than $7 million.
Dorn's parents say her husband visited regularly in the days after her injury. He brought the children, and Abbie's mother put them in her arms so she could hold them.
Over time, the visits became less frequent. Dan eventually divorced Abbie in 2007.
Dorn now lives with her parents and requires 24-hour care. She has a daily regimen of rehab and therapies that include music and sound vibrations to help stimulate the brain.
A team of medical experts hired by Dan Dorn's lawyers said she would never recover. But her parents said after years of rehabilitation, Abbie has brain function and can understand when people talk to her. Her caretakers said that several times a day Abbie responds to direct questions verbally, saying "yeah" or "no." Her parents said she lights up when her nieces and nephews visit.
They also said Dorn can communicate with her eyes, that one long blink means yes.
When ABC News asked her last year if seeing her children is important to her, she responded with a long and steady blink.
"If all she can say to them is one or two words and show in her eyes how much she loves them," said Susan Cohen, Abbie's mother, "I think that will mean a great deal to those children."
ABC News' Jennifer Harrison and The Associated Press contributed to this reoprt