Linda Pelletier fainted inside a Boston courthouse Monday after learning that a judge ordered her daughter Justina placed into foster care.
The 15-year-old West Hartford girl is at the center of a custody battle between her parents, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families that has been going on since February 2013.
Monday’s custody decision is only temporary, until the family’s next court date on March 17. But the announcement threw the teen’s parents and sisters into hysterics after the hearing.
Linda Pelletier, 56, collapsed onto the fourth floor hallway and later was rolled out of the courthouse on a stretcher and taken to Mass. General Hospital for treatment.
“Poor Linda Pelletier. I was standing next to her. She got light-headed. She’s diabetic. She’s 56 years old. She started to pass out. We had to grab her and hold her up. She was on the floor,” said Rev. Patrick Mahoney.
Rev. Mahoney flew to New England this weekend and joined the family at the Boston courthouse Monday, later telling the media he was speaking on their behalf.
“We are going to bring people of faith, of goodwill, who believe in this, the millions across the country to be engaged with this. We are announcing the campaign ‘free justina’ ” said Rev. Mahoney.
The move to foster care means Justina will remain in Massachusetts state custody until the next court date.
Before the hearing Monday, her father, Lou Pelletier, addressed the media and seemed optimistic.
“We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed with what we’re about to see today, but as you’ve heard, we’re fighting to save my daughter’s life,” he said.
Inside the courthouse, two high-profile attorneys, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and David Gibbs of the National Center for Life and Liberty, were on hand to fight the gag order applied by Judge Joseph Johnston on Nov. 7, 2013.
Further proceedings regarding the gag order were pushed to March as well.
“It’s obviously an unusual situation. I think obviously the more people know about the situation or any proceeding, the better it is,” said Staver.
Faith and pro-life advocates, Rev. Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, and Keith Mason, of Personhood USA, were in Boston to support the Pelletier family.
“Justina is being moved to foster care. They are outraged by that. There’s no medical attention there,” said Rev. Mahoney, who was with the parents on the fourth floor of the courthouse.
Both groups plan to launch nationwide support campaigns.
“We will be launching grassroots efforts with vigils. We will be doing phone call campaigns. We will be going to lawmakers here in the state of Massachusetts,” said Mason.
For now, the gag order remains in place.
The media were forced out of the fourth floor courthouse hallway Monday by court officials.
The Honorable Terry M. Craven told reporters they could not be on the fourth floor, which typically holds juvenile hearings. Fox CT news has previously covered the case on the fourth floor dating from November and had never before been instructed to leave the floor.
Linda Pelletier remained in the hospital Monday evening with her condition unclear to the media.
“She was hysterical. The family was crying. Here’s what they want: They want their daughter with them. There’s no argument that she was doing better under their care than under the care of the government,” said Rev. Mahoney.
Fox CT was unable to obtain any comment from DCF employees present at the courthouse Monday.
A vigil has been scheduled for Justina and will likely be held near a foster care facility in Merrimac, Mass., at noon on Saturday March 1, according to Rev. Mahoney.