Mental Patient’s Abortion Questioned by Mother : Rights: Emma Marquez, who says she never authorized the late-term surgery on her daughter, is suing Camarillo State Hospital.
Eighteen months after her mentally retarded daughter was forced to undergo an abortion after she was allegedly raped at Camarillo State Hospital, Emma Marquez is still looking for answers from the state bureaucracy.
Marquez, 62, a resident of Logan Heights, said the abortion left her daughter Rosemary Terraza, 35, traumatized and asking questions of her own. Terraza has been a patient at the Ventura County hospital off and on since Nov. 19, 1971. A Camarillo staff report put her IQ at 19, equivalent to that of a 2 1/2-year-old.
“Whenever I visit her, she holds her stomach and asks me, ‘Mom, where’s my baby?’ It’s been almost two years since the abortion, but she still remembers the pregnancy,” said Marquez, a widow and native of Mexico.
Camarillo is home to several dozen male and female patients who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled. According to medical records made available to The Times, Terraza’s pregnancy went unnoticed by Camarillo officials until she was six months pregnant.
Marquez acted on her daughter’s behalf and sued the hospital in January, after the state rejected a claim that she submitted for damages resulting from the abortion. The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages. The state attorney general’s office, which is representing Camarillo, has asked that the suit be heard in Ventura County, and a change-of-venue hearing is scheduled for later this month in San Diego Superior Court.
The medical records show that the abortion was supposedly authorized by Marquez and Camarillo officials. However, that is contested by Marquez, who is her daughter’s guardian. She said she has tried unsuccessfully to learn how the state obtained authorization for the abortion, which hospital records show occurred during the 24th week of pregnancy.
Terraza’s medical records show that the abortion was done at Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks after a sonogram revealed the fetus was deformed. However, Marquez and her attorney, Manuel Sanchez of San Diego, argue that state officials never provided her with compelling evidence of the fetus’ deformity.
The stage at which the abortion was performed is also disputed by Marquez, who said a state social worker told her Terraza was actually seven months pregnant at the time of the abortion. The social worker declined to comment and asked that his name not be disclosed.
State law allows doctors to perform abortions through the 27th week of pregnancy, but few do beyond the 24th week unless the mother’s life is in danger or the fetus does not stand a chance of surviving, according to medical experts interviewed by The Times.
Marquez said she refused to authorize the abortion, despite intense pressure from officials at the San Diego Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled, who wanted her to sign an authorization form.
According to the claim filed by Marquez with the state, officials from the regional center told her on Dec. 3, 1988, that her daughter was pregnant and needed an abortion. Records from Los Robles show that Terraza’s abortion took place Nov. 23, 1988, 10 days before Marquez says she was notified of the pregnancy.
In the claim, Marquez also said that regional center officials informed her on Dec. 5, 1988, that an abortion had been performed on her daughter but did not say when.
Los Robles spokeswoman Kathy Flaherty said privacy laws and the hospital’s policy prohibit the release of patient information or comment about the abortion.
The regional center is the California Developmental Services Department’s local clearinghouse for dealing with developmentally disabled people and provides services for retarded citizens. Center officials failed to return repeated phone calls to their offices.
Marquez said the same social worker who told her that Terraza was seven months pregnant when the fetus was aborted also told her that he believed a doctor or Camarillo staff member was responsible for the alleged rape, Marquez said. However, there has been no confirmation of that.
Don Bowling, a Developmental Services spokesman in Sacramento, said the father’s identity has not been established, and he did not rule out the possibility that Terraza, who also suffers from epilepsy, may have been impregnated by a patient at Camarillo.
A hospital report noted that Terraza was confined to a specific area and was not allowed to walk through the hospital grounds. In a telephone interview, Bowling said Camarillo officials “were under pressure from us to try to find out who the father was.”
“Genetic tests were done on the fetus to help us determine who the father was,” Bowling said. “Particularly with DNA research, once a sample is taken it’s not difficult to get a match. We made it very clear to the facility that the father had to be located.”
Greg Sandin, another Developmental Services official in Sacramento, said the agency is still investigating to find out who impregnated Terraza, but the results have not been encouraging.
“The investigation is still open, but . . . we still don’t know who the father is,” Sandin said.
According to state records, Terraza has been a patient at Camarillo on and off for almost 20 years. Marquez has taken her home for several months at a time, but Terraza always returned to the mental hospital.
Marquez said she visits her daughter two or three times a year and usually brings her back to San Diego to spend a week or two. A hospital report noted that “Rosemary looks forward to visits from her mother and sister.” In addition to the 22-year-old sister, Terraza also has a teen-age brother.
“My daughter had never had any problems at Camarillo until this happened,” Marquez said. “I never dreamed something this terrible could ever happen to her. I went to see her two months ago and she was fine. They let me bring her home for four days.”
The woman, whose husband died in an auto accident in Mexico seven years ago, said she debated whether to sue the state. She said she finally acted at the urging of her younger daughter and went to the Chicano Federation, a Latino activist group in San Diego, which put her in touch with attorney Sanchez.
The younger daughter “kept telling me that the abortion was illegal because I never authorized it and we should sue the state to stop them from doing these things,” Marquez said.
State officials are tight-lipped about the alleged rape and the abortion, except to acknowledge that Terraza was pregnant and that her fetus was aborted. A state report written after the abortion said that Terraza is now required to take birth control pills, along with her daily medication.
Last July, the California Board of Control rejected a damage claim submitted by Marquez over her daughter’s pregnancy. Her attorney filed a civil suit against the state in January.
A report written two years ago by a social worker described Terraza as “a pretty, 33-year-old, single, bilingual Hispanic female. . . . She likes to look nice and often browses through clothing catalogues.” The report, which was written after Terraza’s pregnancy became apparent, noted that “she was not known to be sexually active.”
“Rosemary has displayed her non-consent to sexual advances on at least one occasion, when a male peer tried to hug her. Rosemary screamed and pushed him away,” the report said.
Marquez and her younger daughter said they were told by regional center officials in San Diego that Terraza’s abortion was necessary because the fetus was deformed. Bowling and other Developmental Services officials refused to disclose the reason for the abortion.
However, medical records show that sometime in early November, 1988, Terraza began “complaining of enlargement of her abdomen.” X-rays were taken of her abdomen, and Camarillo officials realized Terraza was pregnant. A subsequent sonogram “revealed a single viable intrauterine pregnancy,” according to medical records.
Further examination of the sonogram revealed problems with the fetus, records show. An entry in Terraza’s “Personal History and Physical Examination” records noted that the fetus’ head was too small at 24 weeks.
A post-abortion analysis of the fetus showed that its organs were normal but that its skull had failed to fully enclose the brain.
Sanchez said he remains unconvinced that the fetus was in fact brain-damaged.