WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Since February 2013, Justina Pelletier has been the focus of a custody battle between her parents and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). Now, the Pelletiers have found an ally on Capitol Hill – Congressman Steve Stockman, R-TX.
On Tuesday, Stockman introduced H.R. 4518, the “Parental Protection Act.” His office said the legislation aims to “[cut] off funds to medical institutions that” act unreasonably regarding “research on wards of the state,” or who “take children away from their parents over disagreements on subjective medical diagnoses.”
In his video announcing the legislation, Stockman also asked citizens across the country to “join me in protecting parental rights against the state, where the government's coming in like Big Brother and taking the child.”
The Pelletiers, who live in Connecticut, have found support among state legislators in Massachusetts and Connecticut and thousands of Americans nationwide. Stockman may be the first legislator on Capitol Hill to publicly stand with the family against DCF.
Diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder in 2011, Justina was treated at Tufts for two years. When her parents took her to Boston Children's Hospital in 2013 to see her longtime gastroenterologist, who had moved to Children's, it was decided by a different doctor that the illness was a psychological disorder caused by her parents.
Pelletier was promptly taken away from her parents, and the lengthy legal fight ensued.
While it seemed likely that Justina would be moved back to Connecticut earlier this year, hopes were dashed after it was ruled that the 15-year-old – who has spent time in two psychiatric centers since being taken from her parents – would be in state custody until she was 18 years old.
That decision brought strong condemnation from Harvard professor and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who said that neither his wife, who formerly practiced at Children's, nor he, could understand the state's decision.
“The Massachusetts law is clear,” Dershowitz, who offered to help the Pelletiers, told Fox News. “When you have a conflict of medical opinion – and here you have Tufts medical school, which is one of the greatest medical schools in the country, [and] Children’s Hospital, part of the Harvard teaching hospital system – you allow those conflicts of medical care to be resolved by the parents. The state doesn’t come in and tell you you have to accept the medical opinion of one hospital over the other.”
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Liberty Counsel, who represents Justina's parents, has suggested that the Children's doctor who diagnosed Justina may be using the teenager for research on a grant related to the form of hypochondria he says she has. Stockman did the same in his press release.
To use Justina for research, with or without her consent, would be within the limits of Massachusetts state law. In his release, Stockman said that “Boston Children’s Hospital will not disclose if they are performing experiments on Justina. What is known is that several institutions are engaging in this ethically questionable behavior and getting federal funds for it.”
The legislation has no cosponsors as of press time. In a letter to his colleagues included in the press release, Stockman asked them to “join me in sponsoring legislation that would” prevent funds from the National Institute of Health from going to organizations “that do not respect the rights of parents and children.”