Gov. Bush Continues Quest for Guardian of Unborn Child

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - Although a Florida judge rejected his attempt to have a guardian appointed for the unborn child of a mentally impaired woman, Gov. Jeb Bush has promised to appeal the decision, saying he is "fully committed" to protecting both the mother and the child.

On Monday, Orange County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Kirkwood ruled that a disabled woman who became pregnant after being raped is mentally incapacitated and named Patti Jarrell from nearby Longwood to serve as her legal guardian.

The 22-year-old woman - who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and has no known family - is about to enter her third trimester of pregnancy.

However, Kirkwood rejected a petition initiated by Gov. Bush for a guardian to also be chosen for the Orlando woman's unborn child.

"There is no basis in [Florida] statues or case law for appointment of a guardian for a fetus." Kirkwood said Monday. "A trial judge must follow the law as written."

Kirkwood's decision echoes that of a Miami circuit court judge who last week dismissed a pro-life group's effort to represent the unborn child of a disabled, deaf rape victim with the mental capacity of a 4-year-old. That child was aborted last Thursday in the sixth month of pregnancy.

"Many have expected this court to blaze new areas and write new law," Kirkwood added. "The decisions of this court can be appealed."

In a statement issued after Kirkwood's ruling, Bush said that he was "relieved the court has acknowledged this young woman's need for a guardian and trust she will now receive the protection she will require for the rest of her life.

"However," the governor continued, "I am disappointed by the decision not to address the issue of guardianship for the unborn child trapped in this tragedy."

Bush vowed to appeal the ruling within the next several days because he remains "fully committed" to pursuing protective guardianship for both the mother and the child.

"An unborn child would normally have his or her rights defended by her mom. In this case, the mom needs a guardian herself," Bush added. "To me, this is about valuing life, and we should do everything in our power to protect the mom and provide her a safe place. We also want to take into consideration the impact on this child which could be brought to term."

Abortion "rights" supporters have accused the Republican governor of using the incident to curry favor with the conservative political base of his party, while pro-life groups have praised Bush for standing up for the rights of the unborn.

Concerned Women for America President Sandy Rios said on Tuesday that she is "impressed by the strength of character Jeb Bush has displayed in this situation. Obviously, this 6-month-old unborn baby is living and moving, just as Conner Peterson was before his tragic murder.

"As the mother of a 28-year-old severely disabled daughter who functions at the level of a month-old baby, I have a deep sense of the tragedy of the mother's circumstances, and I agree that she needs a guardian," Rios added.

While stating that CWA "congratulates Jeb Bush" for his promise to appeal the decision rejecting a guardian for the unborn child, Rios said she hopes "the court will be willing to heed the voice of compassion rather than the political pressure of pro-abortion protestors."

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