Abbie Dorn lies in a hospital bed in her parents' home on the South Carolina coast. A halo of dark curls frames her pale face. The pump for her feeding tube clicks softly in the quiet room.
Abbie and their father, Dan Dorn, have divorced, and Dan is raising the children in a modest Beverlywood bungalow. Abbie, 34, held her babies only once, the day of their birth. She has not seen them in nearly 2 1/2 years.
Abbie's parents have been named conservators of her estate, which includes a multimillion-dollar malpractice settlement, and are asking a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to order Dan to let Abbie see her children. Dan has refused all requests, arguing that visitation would be too traumatic at their young age.
The bitter dispute raises questions both legal and profoundly human. What is a parent? What constitutes a parent-child relationship? How do you show children that they are loved? And can Abbie Dorn ever be a mother to her children?
In court papers, Dan, 33, describes the woman he once loved as "in a vegetative state with virtually no hope for recovery." His attorney, Vicki Greene, says, "As far as we know, Abbie is incompetent," that the case is all about her parents' wishes, that "we don't know what Abbie wants, because Abbie can't speak for herself."
Abbie's mother argues vehemently otherwise. Her daughter, Susan Cohen says, has improved markedly since "the event." She gets hours of therapy each day. She can read. She is capable of complex thought.
And she can communicate. With her smile. Her tears. And, most of all, her eyes.
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Severly Disabled, Is She Still a Mom?