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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Judge Allows Abortion For Disabled Woman

Aired May 23, 2003 - 20:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a judge in Florida has ordered that an abortion be performed on a mentally disabled woman who police say was raped. That decision comes while another Florida judge is wrestling with a case that has some similarities.
Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti has the latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 28- year-old disabled woman with the mental capacity of toddler was living at this Florida regulated home when she was discovered four months pregnant in March. Police say she was raped. It's unclear where it happened or by whom.

Because of her severe physical and mental problems, the woman's court-appointed attorney urged a judge to abort her pregnancy.

LEWIS FOGLE, RAPE VICTIM'S ATTORNEY: There's no way she could take care of this child. She has some physical problems, and the child will be -- to carry the pregnancy to term might very well hurt or even kill her.

CANDIOTTI: Doctors at a medical school told the court there was no medical reason to terminate her pregnancy.

However, court files reviewed by CNN indicate the woman's own neurosurgeon said it would be unsafe to carry her pregnancy to term.

At a hearing Thursday, her attorney says the victim appeared to indicate she wanted to stop her pregnancy.

FOGLE: She made gestures by pointing and saying, No, shaking her head. That would seem to be pretty clear.

CANDIOTTI: A Florida judge ruled in her favor. A termination of pregnancy and tubal ligation is hereby authorized. The judge said that along with suffering from water on the brain -- quote -- "she is deaf and mute. Her mental age was 4. She's on medication for seizures and is the product of rape."

The victim's mother tells CNN she does not want to risk losing her daughter, adding, "it's not easy but it's the right choice." Last week in Orlando, a similar case involving a raped mentally disabled woman, who is now six months pregnant. In that controversial case, Governor Jeb Bush got involved, asking the state to put off a decision to abort the pregnancy until a court-appointed guardian is appointed for the fetus, an appointment that appears directly at odds with a previous ruling from the Florida Supreme Court.

(on camera): In the Orlando case, a judge has not yet made up his mind. That 22-year-old mentally disabled woman may not have the same physical complications as the Miami rape victim.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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