The Corner

Politics & Policy

U.K. Court to Force Mentally Disabled Woman to Have an Abortion

(Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

The New York Times has confirmed reporting from late last week that a British court will compel a pregnant, mentally disabled woman to have an abortion against her wishes. The woman is 22 weeks pregnant, is reportedly in her 20s, and has not been identified by name.

The woman’s mother has offered to care for the child, in addition to her daughter, but that is apparently of little interest to Justice Nathalie Lieven, who issued the ruling for the Court of Protection — which makes decisions for people who are determined to “lack the mental capacity” to do so themselves — noting that the grandmother might on some occasions have to leave her daughter and grandchild.

“I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the state to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion,” Lieven wrote, calling her decision “heartbreaking,” before going on to claim that a forced abortion is in the woman’s best interests.

“I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Lieven added of the woman’s reported desire to keep her child. The judge also asserted that it would be more harmful to the woman for her to give birth and give up the child than it would be for her to undergo a coerced abortion. “I think [she] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”

From a medical perspective, it is patently false that a (compelled) surgical abortion so late in pregnancy would be safer for a pregnant woman’s health, and less traumatic to her, than giving birth and giving the child up for adoption. And, contrary to Lieven’s blithe assertion, this woman’s unborn child is already “a real baby” — though surely she meant, as all abortion apologists do, that the child would feel or seem like a real baby in a way he or she doesn’t while still in the womb.

This incident comes little more than a year after the disturbing case of Alfie Evans, when British officials prevented a couple from taking their sick child out of the country for possible life-saving medical care, because doctors in the U.K. believed nothing more could be done to alleviate his terminal illness.

This case is more egregious still. It is unclear as of now whether this pregnant woman and her mother will be able to appeal the court’s decision. Even if they manage to avoid having to go through with the abortion, it is abhorrent that judges have the power to compel a woman to kill her own child, and that so much of our culture would think it best for a woman to be forced to do so.

Worth noting, too, is the deafening silence from “pro-choice” groups both in the U.K. and here in the U.S. For them, it seems, the only “choice” worth protecting is the choice for abortion.

Update 1:18 p.m.The Press Association is reporting that Court of Appeals justices in the U.K. have reversed Lieven’s decision and will not compel the pregnant woman to undergo an abortion, and the Catholic News Agency, which helped break the initial story, is reporting the same.

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