March 11, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – It’s not every day that a family in America seeks medical treatment for their child, only to find themselves embroiled in a heated custody battle. But that’s exactly what happened to Lou and Linda Pelletier after they admitted their 15-year-old daughter, Justina, to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in February, 2013.
It all began when Justina was unable to recover from a severe case of the flu. Her doctors at Tufts Medical Center, who for years had been treating Justina’s mitochondrial disease, referred her to an expert gastroenterologist at BCH for further testing. Unfortunately, those tests never took place. Instead, a newly minted doctor examined Julia and then overruled the mitochondrial disease diagnosis made by the Tufts medical team, recommending instead that Justina be treated for a “psychological disorder.” When the Pelletiers refused to comply with BCH’s diagnosis, they were charged with “medical child abuse” and lost parental custody of their daughter.
Until earlier this year, Justina was locked up in BCH’s psych ward, where her health appeared to deteriorate. During that period, Judge Joseph Johnston, the juvenile court judge presiding over the case, placed a gag order on the Pelletiers, prohibiting them from speaking publicly about the case and also limiting their contact with Justina to just one hourlong, supervised visit per week.
In recent months, Justina was placed in a residential facility, the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, in Framingham, Massachusetts, and she has continued to receive treatment for psychosomatic illness rather than mitochondrial disease for some time. As of March 3, however, the gag order and contempt charges were formally withdrawn. Had it not been for the public’s involvement in the case and speaking out on behalf of Justina at JusticeforJustina.com, it’s unlikely that this change would have taken place.
This strong-armed government interference into the health and well-being of a young girl has sparked a national uproar and mobilized several pro-life organizations to work together to defend Justina’s dignity and human rights.
One of those organizations is Online for Life, a technology-driven nonprofit that works to rescue unborn babies and their families from abortion. Working jointly with Personhood USA, Online for Life has launched The Free Justina Project to bring awareness to the Pelletiers’ battle and put pressure on Judge Johnston, Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). In the first week since launching the campaign, over 8,000 names have been added to the Free Justina petition, hundreds of phone calls have poured into the judge’s office, and dozens of media outlets have picked up the news story, making it a national headline.
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“The rights of Justina Pellitier and her family are clearly being violated,” says Keith Mason, Founder and President of Personhood USA. “Justina is a person, not property of the State of Massachusetts. It is imperative that we stand together in defense of this young woman before it is too late.”
The Free Justina Project is now mobilizing a write-in letter campaign, urging members of the Massachusetts General Court to support a proposed Free Justina resolution that will begin the process of returning custody of Justina to her family. So far, more than 22 Massachusetts state representatives have signed the resolution. Fifteen legislators in Justina’s home state of Connecticut have signed a letter to Connecticut’s DCF, urging the organization to let the Pelletiers take custody of Justina, rather than accept custody of her from the Massachusetts DCF. Many activists are now demanding a full-scale investigation into how the Massachusetts DCF handled this case.
Online for Life and Personhood USA will continue to mobilize activists to speak out against the injustice that was committed against Justina and her family. In the interim, and as the Pelletiers await their next hearing on March 17, we are urging all concerned citizens to stand with us and get involved in The Free Justina Project.
Early victories in this case are largely due to the public’s refusal to stand idly by while Justina is prevented from receiving the medical care her parents desire for her. Online for Life and Personhood USA are grateful for the involvement of the public, but we believe the complete resolution of this matter is yet to come.
To learn more about how you can get involved to help Justina return home, please visit JusticeforJustina.com.