Virginia Trask, the teen mother, had lost temporary custody of the baby to the state, which initially sought the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order and only backed off in the face of a swarm of criticism.
The baby reportedly sustained brain damage and slipped into a coma after being shaken by her 21-year-old father, Kevin Peaslee. At that time, the doctors recommended to the Maine mom that she sign off on a DNR order, which she did. But the baby then miraculously emerged from the coma after being placed in the arms of Trask, court papers state, and Trask changed her mind.
The state then stepped in, and social workers with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said prolonging the baby’s life would be wrong, and further said “neither parent can be counted on to be physically or emotionally available to make the necessary informed decision when needed.” The state wanted to withdraw life support and allow the baby to die, and it convinced a lower court judge that it was right. That ruling was appealed.
Significantly, the mom’s parental rights were never severed, and she was never deemed unfit to parent.
Governor Paul LePage sided with the mom, stating emphatically during a Fox News interview that he would not permit “state bureaucrats” to usurp parental rights, regardless of the lower court ruling.
“This case is disturbing and is not reflective of my Administration’s position that a parent who is the legal guardian of their child should have final say in medical decisions about life-sustaining treatment,” LePage said. “The existing law violates the sanctity of parental rights, and I cannot support it. Unless a parent is deemed unfit and parental rights are severed, the state should not override a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their own child.”
The Maine mom is being supported by a team of legal heavyweights. Attorneys from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and several other related advocacy groups have all filed friend-of-the-court briefs.
“This case is about fundamental rights: the right to live, and the right to parent,” an excerpt from the ADF 25-page legal brief states. “The Maine Constitution places great value on human life, echoing the U.S. Declaration of Independence and a long tradition of U.S. Supreme Court and Maine State court precedent likewise affirms the intrinsic right to parent.”
The case will be heard by the Maine Supreme Court later this month, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services now says it won’t move forward with the DNR order – even if the state Supreme Court sides with the department.
ADF attorney Steven H. Aden applauded the state’s decision but said the department should go a step further.
“Everyone deserves a fighting chance to live,” Aden said. “We are pleased the health department is affirming the mother’s parental rights and the right to save her daughter’s life. … The state should dismiss its appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to avoid setting a dangerous precedent which risks violating parental rights.”
The baby, named “Aleah,” is currently living in a foster home and her mother has visitation rights.
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