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Court Battle Ensues Over Pregnant Mentally-Disabled Woman in Nevada

Robin Marty

Who gets to make a final decision when a patient can't consent, her guardians, or the court?

It’s difficult to ascertain what exactly Elisa Bauer wants to do now that she has become pregnant. Elisa, who has the mental capacity of a six-year-old, is 11 weeks pregnant after leaving the group home in which she lives, and allegedly prostituting herself at a truck stop, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to Elisa’s legal guardians, who are adamantly opposed to abortion, she has said she wants to carry to term, and give the baby up to an adoptive couple. Elisa’s guardians have stated that they already have six potential couples lined up and willing to take any child, even one with special needs.

The court, however, has concerns. Elisa isn’t just mentally disabled, but experiences sometimes life threatening seizures. A judge has stepped in to consider whether the woman should have an abortion to minimize potential risks to her health.

Despite Elisa’s guardians, Reverend William and Amy Bauer, claims otherwise, it’s a legitimate concern. In their own interview, they say that she needed to be tracked by the police when she made her frequent trips from the group home to nearby truck stops and casinos where she had sexual encounters (it’s unclear whether the acts were consensual or not), so she could be monitored and ensure that she was taking her medication. Yet as soon as they learned she was pregnant, they took her to the doctor to see how her medicine may need to be changed to “minimize harm to the baby.” Never mind those seizures.

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Do the Bauers as her guardian have the right to make the final decision on her health? At this point legally, yes, that is exactly what guardianship is. But what if the pregnancy actually puts her in danger? It was her guardians’ decision to take her off of birth control in the first place, worried that taking Depo-Provera was causing her problems with obesity. Moreover, they apparently feel the group home situation is sufficient protection for Elisa, while evidence that she continues to leave it and enter into dangerous situation suggests otherwise.

No woman should be forced to abort a pregnancy against her will. But this is more complicated, because it is not clear “will” can even be determined. Her neurologist testified that she said she didn’t want to have a baby. Her family disagrees and said she consented to pregnancy and adoption. Yet no one seems sure if she is able to honestly and in an informed way consent to either option.

Anti-choice activists are putting full force behind upholding the guardians’ legal rights. What is unclear at this point is who, if anyone, is advocating for Elisa’s.

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