Court May Decide if Disabled Woman Must Abort Child

A Nevada couple is trying to block a court-ordered abortion for their mentally handicapped adopted daughter who became pregnant after wandering away from a group home.

LifeSiteNews is reporting that Elizabeth “Elisa” Bauer, 32, who was born in Costa Rica and adopted with her five siblings by Amy and William Bauer of Fernley, Nevada, is the subject of a fierce legal battle in which her Catholic parents are trying to stop a judge from ordering Elisa to have an abortion.

Judge Egan Walker

Elisa, who was born disabled as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which occurs when a mother drinks during pregnancy, is prone to seizures and is said to have an IQ of just 42 and a mental age of six.

When Elisa reached the age of 18, because she was still unable to care for herself, she was entrusted by the court to her parents’ permanent guardianship and they have been responsible for her care ever since. Eventually, Elisa went to live at Chrysalis, a group home for disabled adults in Reno, Nevada.

Although no one really knows the exact circumstances under which Elisa became pregnant, she had been known to frequently leave Chrysalis to visit nearby truck stops and casinos where she would have sexual encounters with men.

“It is unclear whether these encounters were consensual, although Chrysalis staff suspect she had sex in exchange for money so that she could gamble,” LifeSite reports. “The nature of her mental impairment, however, suggests she is unable to legally consent to sex.”

The Bauers had been working with Chrysalis employees to stop Elisa from making these visits, even going so far as to give her a cell phone with a GPS tracking program and arranging for police to follow her when she left the home without a specific destination. But the only way to completely stop her would be to formally institutionalize her, something the family does not want to do.

As soon as the Bauers learned of the pregnancy, they took Elisa to her neurologist to find out how her medications would have to be adjusted, an action that resulted in reports being made to social services.

“Soon after, the Bauers were summoned to court without explanation – and without a lawyer,” LifeSite reports.

According to the family lawyer, Jason Guinasso, Judge Egan Walker confronted the Bauers about Elisa’s pregnancy and asked whether or not they planned to have the child aborted. When Amy and William told the judge that their Catholic faith prevented them from procuring an abortion, the judge was dismissive.

“He said ‘I have inherent authority to [override their wishes] because the court appointed the guardians and they are agents of the court,’” Guinasso said.

But Guinasso says that is a misreading of the law. “There are no statutes that give this Court or Washoe County the authority to compel Elisa to have an abortion,” he said. “Such decisions are left to the sound discretion of the duly appointed guardians.”

Amy and William have also tried to bring Elisa home to keep closer watch over her care during her pregnancy but the judge said no.

“They’re trying to limit our contact with her,” Amy told LifeSite.

The couple filed a motion asking the Nevada Supreme Court to halt the proceedings by Judge Walker, arguing that he lacks authority to make such a decision for Elisa because the Bauers are her legal guardians. Guinasso argued that because Judge Egan has not tried to revoke the Bauer’s guardianship or even called their fitness into question, he has no standing to override their decision to keep the child.

The Supreme Court agreed that Guinasso’s arguments had merit, and gave the lower court until Monday to respond to his arguments. Judge Walker continues to maintain that he has the authority to order an abortion for Elisa and that it “would be illogical and contrary to law” to stop him from holding hearings that will help him decide whether or not to do so.

Olivia Gans Turner, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based organizations National Right to Life and American Victims of Abortion, said the Nevada couple have drawn the support of pro-life advocates nationwide.

“This is a cause we support,” she told the Associated Press. “It’s definitely their right to protect their daughter’s right to have a child and to protect the life of their grandchild. There’s no reason for this woman to be subjected to the danger and risk of an abortion because someone else thinks she’s not worthy of having a child because of her mental condition.”

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