Like postpartum depression, lawyer says
By LINDSEY A. HENRY - Staff Writer Des Moines Register
A Des Moines baby sitter accused of killing a toddler
claims an abortion intensified years of depression and left
her unable to control her anger.
Tifany Myers, 18, does not admit fatally slamming
21-month-old Joel Vasquez to the floor in January. But
her lawyer argued Thursday that the abortion - performed
two days before the boy suffered severe head injuries -
triggered emotions similar to postpartum depression.
Myers was scheduled to go on trial for first-degree
murder Monday. The trial will be postponed for at least
six weeks to give lawyers time to prepare for the unusual
Attorney William Kutmus insisted Myers' mental state
lessened her responsibility in the boy's death. "This isn't
creative stuff," he said. "Remember, it's depression."
If a jury believed Myers' defense, she could be found
guilty of lesser charges but not first-degree murder,
Kutmus said. Her inability to process information would
rule out premeditation.
After calling 911 in January, Myers told Des Moines
police she thought the toddler fell from a bed. Police
allege Myers later said she threw him to the ground when
he continued to cry. The boy died on Jan. 21.
Michael O'Hara, a University of Iowa psychology
professor, said postpartum depression rarely begins
immediately after a live birth, let alone after an abortion.
"I think it's going to be a stretch, quite frankly," he said. "I
would be surprised to see it develop in that way, in that
short a period of time. One could imagine this woman had
all sorts of problems before."
Two area doctors evaluated Myers' mental standing,
Kutmus said. Both found her to be severely depressed,
both before and after the toddler's death. "She's of low
intelligence, very nonaggressive," Kutmus said.
Myers' mother said her daughter never received
treatment for depression. "She doesn't talk to anybody,"
Leslie Myers said. "She just keeps it bottled up."
Assistant Polk County Attorney Nan Horvat declined to
Post-abortion syndrome is tinged with controversy. The
Elliot Institute, an Illinois anti-abortion group, says abortion
can cause serious psychological injury for some, with
reactions ranging from regret to devastation.
Some abortion-rights groups dismiss that, and the
American Psychological Association does not recognize
post-abortion trauma as a genuine disorder.
Nancy Adler, a University of California at San Francisco
medical psychology professor, said women can
experience emotional difficulty before and after births, as
well as abortions.
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