ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights Admonish State of Florida for Failing to Protect the Health and Rights of a Rape Victim
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ORLANDO, FL – By failing to ask the court to appoint a guardian for a severely disabled woman who is pregnant as a result of rape, the state of Florida once again abdicated its responsibilities today, placing politics over women’s health and well-being, said the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed a brief in the case.
“The state’s negligence is part of an ongoing pattern that resulted in the tragic circumstances of this case in the first place,” said Julie Sternberg, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The state failed to protect her from being raped; it failed to determine that she was pregnant until she was at least five months pregnant; and now it has once again failed to act in a manner that will ensure that her needs are fully and promptly addressed.”
The case involves an anonymous 22-year-old woman – known by the initials J.D.S. — who is severely developmentally disabled and under state-licensed care. While living in an Orlando group home, she became pregnant as a result of rape.
At a hearing today in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) failed to ask the court to appoint a guardian for the woman.
Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for DCF indicated that the agency intended to ask the court to appoint two guardians: one for the woman, the other for the fetus. According to news reports, after learning that the Florida Supreme Court had already ruled that it is improper to appoint a guardian for a fetus, DCF decided to drop the request for such a guardian.
Governor Jeb Bush, however, stepped in yesterday, announcing that with his support DCF will seek separate guardians for the woman and the fetus. The state did not request either guardian today. As a result, the court decided to extend protective services for the woman for 60 days.
“The Governor and his appointees at DCF are using this tragic case to advance their own ideologies,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “This case is not a political game. It is about whether or not the state will meet its duty to protect the health and well-being of this woman.”
“The state’s clear disregard for this young woman is unconscionable,” said Bebe Anderson, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “She has already survived so much trauma. By refusing to appoint a guardian to ensure her health and best interests, the state is simply continuing the abuse she has suffered.”
The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Florida NOW, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case asking the court to deny any petition to appoint a guardian for the fetus.
Lawyers on the brief are Sternberg of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Anderson of the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Lisa Kuhlman Tietig, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Florida.
The brief is available online at: /node/9632
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The latest in Reproductive Freedom
An Idaho College Censored Their Reproductive Health Care Art, But These Artists Won’t be Silenced
No One Should Face the Death Penalty for Accessing Health Care
The Women Who Made ACLU History
Physicians and Advocates File Opposition To Attorney General’s Request to Enforce Guam’s 1990 Total Abortion Ban
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Learn More About Reproductive Freedom
The ACLU works to ensure that every person can make the best decision for themselves and their family about whether and when to have a child without undue political interference.