Kirsten Andersen


Pelletiers look to lawmakers to free their daughter from children’s services

Kirsten Andersen

BOSTON, MA, April 11, 2014 ( – Now that a judge has granted Massachusetts social services permanent custody of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, her parents are seeking help from elected officials to get their daughter back.

Judge Joseph Johnston granted permanent custody of Pelletier to the Department of Children and Families earlier this month, after a bitter custody battle between her parents and Boston Children’s Hospital that began a year ago.

Pelletier had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts University Medical Center. But when she went to Boston Children’s Hospital seeking treatment for complications related to the flu, she was immediately taken from her parents and placed in the psychiatric ward when doctors there decided her symptoms were psychosomatic in origin and exacerbated by her parents.  Since then, her physical condition has steadily deteriorated, despite Boston Children’s Hospital’s assertions that she should have recovered once removed from her parents’ influence. 

Now, the Pelletier family is at the center of a nationwide debate over parental rights, and civil rights activists and lawmakers alike are looking for ways to return Justina to her family – and make sure this does not happen again anywhere in America.

In Massachusetts, where Justina is being held against her family’s will (the Pelletiers live in Connecticut), parental rights group MassResistance has introduced a bill that orders the Department of Children and Families to return the girl to her parents. 

“There is a lot of activity on Justina's behalf by well-meaning groups around the country, including lawsuits, rallies, resolutions, calls for investigations, prayer vigils, national media appearances and lots of local talk show chatter. That is all very good to keep this issue alive,” said the group’s president, Brian Camenker, in an e-mail to supporters.  “But this bill is the avenue that leads to direct action and getting Justina home fast.”

However, he said that many House Republicans have objected to the bill, criticizing its language as too “unconventional.”

“The House Minority Leader called our office and told us that bill HD 4212 violates the ‘separation of powers,’” said Camenker.  “Rep. Ryan Fattman's office called us and said that the bill is ‘illegal and unethical’ and that he definitely wouldn't support it.” Camenker said that his group disagrees strongly with that assessment, but would be open to changing the wording of the bill if necessary.

“A few Reps. told us we should not file the bill because they are ‘trying to work though the Governor’ instead,” said Camenker. “All in all, we actually got better responses from Democrats, though most of them were simply noncommittal.”

Some House Republicans are pushing an alternative to the MassResistance bill, a resolution that criticizes the actions of the Department of Children and Families and urges – but does not order – the agency to return her to her parents. That’s not good enough for Camenker, who says the resolution is far too weak.

“The resolution, HD 4157, has similar introductory language to our bill, but would be completely different in effect (or lack of effect!),” Camenker wrote in an email. “It simply announces that the House members ‘strongly encourage’ the DCF to release Justina! With all due respect, this does not sound like bold action to us. It could be easily ignored. In contrast, [our] bill HD 4212 orders the Commonwealth to release Justina to the custody of her parents.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-TX, says he is working on a bill to address the issue on the federal level, which he plans to introduce soon.

“We are still drafting the bill, which would cut off [National Institutes of Health] funds to any hospital or center that performs research on wards of the state that poses greater than minimal risk with no prospect of direct benefits,” Stockman told LifeSiteNews by e-mail Friday.  “Such experiments violate medical ethics, but is allowed by law on persons declared wards of the state.  Boston Children’s Hospital refuses to state whether they are performing experiments on Justina and receiving additional federal money for it.  Hospitals shouldn’t be rewarded with tax dollars for stealing children from their families.”

MassResistance is urging those who support the Pelletiers to contact the Democratic House leadership in Massachusetts and urge them to schedule a vote on HD 4212. 


Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) – Speaker of the House
Phone: 617-722-2500
Email: [email protected]

Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) - Majority Leader
Phone: 617-722-2300
Email: [email protected]

Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) - Speaker Pro Tempore
Phone: 617-722-2600
Email: [email protected]

Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston South End)- Majority Whip
Phone: 617-722-2783
Email: [email protected]

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