Recovering From Abortion : Disabled Woman’s Condition Improves

Times Staff Writer

A brain-diseased Fountain Valley woman, whose parents say she was raped in a nursing home five months ago, rebounded Wednesday and was reported in good condition at UCI Medical Center in Orange following a daylong abortion procedure.

Laura Eldridge, 35, who has been unable to communicate for the last year, was moved in the afternoon from the respiratory intensive care unit to a regular room, hospital officials said. She had suffered from complications due to a kidney infection following the procedure.

Frederick W. DeLisio of Santa Ana, an attorney for the woman’s mother and stepfather, Helen and Tom Stegmoyer, said the family will start looking for a new convalescent home for Eldridge.

Neither the parents nor hospital officials would say how long they expect Eldridge to remain at UCI Medical Center.


Eldridge is believed to have a fatal hereditary illness called Huntington’s chorea, although some doctors think she is suffering from some other brain injury or neurological disorder.

The Stegmoyers say their daughter was raped five months ago, when she was in the Mirada Hills Convalescent and Rehabilitation Hospital in La Mirada. They believe she was attacked while her hands were tied down to keep her from pulling tubes and needles out of her body.

With the fetus, blood samples and body tissues as their only physical evidence so far, Los Angeles County authorities are conducting a criminal investigation of Mirada Hills.

Los Angeles County health services department officials issued a civil citation and a $5,000 fine Friday against Mirada Hills because Eldridge became pregnant while in the hospital’s care. Mirada Hills is appealing the citation and fine administratively because the penalty was issued without any showing that the facility was negligent or otherwise responsible for Eldridge’s pregnancy, the hospital’s lawyer, Robert J. Gerst of Los Angeles, said.


The Stegmoyers learned their daughter was pregnant last week. Helen Stegmoyer obtained a court order appointing her conservator for her daughter with authority to seek an abortion.

The couple said that although they generally oppose abortions, they always have made exceptions in cases involving rape or incest and in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. A doctor testified at a court hearing Friday that Eldridge’s life would be in danger if she carried the fetus to full term.

On Monday, Eldridge entered UCI Medical Center. About 5 p.m., doctors began the abortion procedure, which induced labor.