An Update on Baby Jane Doe

An Update on Baby Jane Doe

In On the Issues Vol. II, Merle Hoffman wrote of “Baby Jane Doe,” an infant born with severe multiple handicaps, whose parents were being hounded unmercifully by the Right-To-Lifers and the Reagan administration because, under the best medical advice, they refused to permit surgery on the infant. “Baby Jane Doe,” whose real name is Kerri Lynn, is now at home with her parents, Ken and Linda. Her spina bifida responded to medical treatment and closed naturally; but her parents finally allowed the surgeons to implant a shunt to relieve the pressure on her brain.

The months of cruel and very public litigation, including a real financial hardship, have taken their toll of the young Long Island couple. They are required to pay court costs, amounting to over $100,000. while, ironically, Lawrence Washburn. the R-T-L attorney who was responsible for the whole thing, has been absolved of all court costs, including the $500.00 he was fined by a Federal court for trying “to harass or to cause unnecessary delay.”

The couple are also worried about how they can afford the on-going costs of home care for the baby. Because Ben is a contractor who makes about $50,000 a year, the family is not eligible for any government benefits; meantime, because of her multiple physical and mental handicaps, the baby’s medical care is estimated to cost at least that amount and. probably, more, per year. In addition to her obvious handicaps, the baby is paralyzed below the waist, has an undeveloped cerebral cortex – which means she will never respond to her surroundings – and severe kidney problems that make it unlikely that she’ll live to her teens. Her care takes nearly all her parents’ time, which they don’t begrudge: they both love her very much. They ^re concerned that they’d like to have more children and don’t see how they can under these circumstances.

They are naturally very bitter, both about the government intervention and, especially, about Washburn. Said Linda:

“He put us through hell.”

The suffering of Ben and Linda may have produced one positive result: government intervention in cases of this kind may be ended.

A matter of small consolation to the couple who have suffered, and continue to suffer, so much.


Merle Hoffman's Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto

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“Merle Hoffman has always known that in a democracy, we each have decision-making power over the fate of our own bodies. She is a national hero for us all.” —Gloria Steinem

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade and a country divided, Merle Hoffman, a pioneer in the pro-choice movement and women’s healthcare, offers an unapologetic and authoritative take on abortion calling it “the front line and the bottom line of women’s freedom and liberty.” 

Merle Hoffman has been at the forefront of the reproductive freedom movement since the 1970s. Three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion through Roe v. Wade, she helped to establish one of the United States’ first abortion centers in Flushing, Queens, and later went on to found Choices, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities. For the last five decades, Hoffman has been a steadfast warrior and fierce advocate for every woman’s right to choose when and whether or not to be a mother.