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Nevada court mulls abortion for pregnant mentally disabled woman

By Jennifer Dobner

RENO, Nevada (Reuters) - A Nevada judge could decide whether a mentally disabled woman should be forced to have an abortion despite the wishes of her adoptive parents, who are also her legal guardians.

William and Amy Bauer's adopted daughter is 32, although fetal alcohol syndrome left the woman with health problems and the mental capacity of a 6-year-old child, said Jason Guinasso, the Fernley, Nevada, couple's attorney.

After county health officials were contacted by one of the woman's doctors, Washoe County District Judge Egan Walker last month called for a hearing on whether the pregnancy is too risky for mother and child.

Another hearing is set for Tuesday, but the Bauers have asked the Nevada Supreme Court to block Walker from going ahead with the proceedings.

A decision could come on Monday afternoon, Guinasso said.

The Bauers contend Walker lacks the authority to decide the matter unless the state first seeks to have them removed as guardians, court papers showed.

Attorney Mary Boetsch, appointed by Walker to represent the daughter, argued in a Supreme Court filing that Walker had jurisdiction. Claims that the woman was being denied her due process rights and will be forced to have an abortion against her will are false, Boetsch said.

The Bauers do not dispute that a pregnancy poses a health risk for their daughter, who is 13 weeks pregnant, and her fetus, Guinasso said. The woman also suffers from epilepsy, bipolar disorder and other health issues.

But the couple opposes abortion and want their daughter to carry the pregnancy to term and give the child up for adoption, he said.

The Bauers have the backing of at least one physician and said that six couples have expressed interest in adopting their daughter's child, Guinasso said.

The baby's father has not been identified. It is not clear whether the pregnancy resulted from consensual sex or a rape.

The Bauer's daughter lives in a Reno group home, but has a history of wandering away and having sex, Guinasso said.

In the past, the woman had been given a birth control injection, but its side effects presented her with health complications, so it was discontinued, Guinasso said.

Walker has appointed Washoe County's public guardian's office to investigate the case. A report filed with the court, and referred to in court papers, indicated that it is not clear whether or not the woman wants to terminate the pregnancy.

Walker has denied a motion to dismiss the case. Deputy District Attorney Dania Reid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least three medical experts have testified the pregnancy is too risky and should be terminated, court papers show.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Christopher Wilson)

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