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February 04, 2013

'Jane Doe' forced abortion case lives on

A heartbreaking #lawsuit claiming #abortions were forced upon mentally disabled women in Washington, D.C. lives on, under a ruling Friday.

In the 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras noted pointedly that the case brought on behalf of three women "involves weighty allegations that have long awaited resolution," and that despite D.C. officials' efforts to get the case dismissed, "they must remain unresolved somewhat longer."

Two women, known as Jane Does I and III, had their pregnancies aborted in 1984 and 1978, respectively. In 1994, Jane Doe II underwent eye surgery to correct an eye condition. Jane Does I and III contend that their abortions were illegally authorized because constitutionally-required procedural protections were not observed. Jane Doe II argues the District was required to obtain consent from her mother, her court-appointed advocate.

Two of the women have since passed away, over the course of litigation that has gone up and down the appellate ladder. Jane Doe, still alive, proceeds through her conservator, Linda Tarlow.

The District argues that the only procedural protection to which Jane Does I and III were entitled was to have a competent professional exercise appropriate judgment as to whether an abortion was in each patient’s best interests. Contreras, though, cited several "fatal flaws" in the District's argument.

While states enjoy certain powers over the individuals held in custody, as the Jane Does essentially were, the judge noted that "it is not obvious that purely elective abortion would ever be—as bodily restraint sometimes is—necessary to ensure the safety of the patient or others." Before the judge dismisses the case, or lets it proceed, he wants to know more about the specific procedures followed, saying:

"There is reason to think that even if the District had provided procedures for determining incompetency and authorizing surgery that were sufficiently protective of the plaintiffs’ right to bodily integrity, greater protections may attach to decisions regarding their right to have children."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mike

"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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