Updated at: 11/06/2012 4:35 PM
By MARTIN GRIFFITH
(AP) RENO, Nev. - The Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request to block a judge’s hearings into the health risks of a mentally impaired woman’s pregnancy.
The court’s unanimous ruling allowed Washoe County District Judge Egan Walker to resume the evidentiary hearings Tuesday morning in a case that has drawn the attention of national anti-abortion groups.
The 32-year-old woman’s parental guardians asked the court on Friday to halt the hearings, saying Walker lacks the authority to terminate the pregnancy of their daughter, who has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old.
They claim they have exclusive authority over her health care decisions, and they want their daughter to carry the baby to term in line with their Catholic religious beliefs.
But the high court sided with Walker, saying he has the authority to monitor the woman’s welfare and hold the hearings.
Justices noted the guardians failed to file an annual report regarding their daughter’s condition and their performance of duties as required by state law. They also said the court obtained information about concerns over the woman’s medical condition.
"The purpose of the evidentiary hearings at this time is merely to obtain information in order to make well-reasoned and informed decisions regarding the ward’s medical care," justices wrote. "Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court has not exceeded its jurisdiction or arbitrarily or capriciously exercised its discretion."
Attorney Jason Guinasso, who represents the guardians, was tied up in Tuesday’s hearing and unavailable for immediate comment, according to his secretary.
Guinasso has said he’s aware of only one similar case in the country. It involved a Massachusetts judge who ordered a mentally ill 31-year-old woman to have an abortion and to be sterilized against her wishes. The state Appeals Court overturned the decision Jan. 17.
The Nevada couple said that while the pregnancy poses health risks to their daughter and the baby, medical experts back them in their decision to continue the pregnancy. The woman suffers from epilepsy and is on medication.
The woman was living in a Reno group home when she wandered away from it and became pregnant 13 weeks ago. The child’s father has not been identified, and it’s unknown whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or consensual sex, according to court documents. The Associated Press is not naming the woman or her parents because those circumstances remain unclear.
The Fernley couple adopted the woman and several siblings from Costa Rica in 1992, and they were appointed as her legal guardians when she turned 18. She suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome.
The guardians say various attempts to confine the woman to the group home were unsuccessful, and six couples have expressed an interest in adopting the baby.
The court intervened in the case in late September when county social services officials sent a report noting the woman was seven weeks pregnant and that her physicians had concerns regarding the effects of her medication on the pregnancy.
Walker appointed the county public guardian’s office as a "neutral fact-finder" to investigate the woman’s condition in regard to her medical, psychiatric and group home care.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Right to Life organization strongly supports the guardians’ position, said spokeswoman Olivia Gans Turner.
"The fact their daughter is not as mentally mature shouldn’t take away her right to have a child," she said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)