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U.K. Court Reverses Ruling That Would Have Forced Mentally Disabled Woman to Have an Abortion

(Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

A British appeals court on Monday reversed a previous ruling that would have forced a mentally disabled woman to abort her child against both her wishes and those of her mother.

Justice Nathalie Lieven ruled Friday that an unidentified London woman, who is in her twenties but is said by the court to have the mental capacity of a six-to-nine-year-old child, must abort her 22-week-old unborn baby on the grounds that carrying the child to term would damage her mental health.

“I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination,” Lieven explained in her decision.

Lieven argued that the mentally disabled woman, who is reportedly Catholic, would suffer mental distress from delivering the baby even if it were subsequently given up for adoption because “it would at that stage be a real baby.” At this stage of gestation, Lieven argued, the woman does not understand the implications of her pregnancy. “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” the judge said.

According to a Press Association report, a three-judge panel overturned that decision Monday following an appeal filed by the unidentified woman’s mother, a Nigerian immigrant and former midwife who opposes the abortion and has offered to care for the child. The three judges — Lord Justice McCombe, Lady Justice King, and Lord Justice Peter Jackson — said they would provide their rationale for overturning the previous ruling at a later date.

Two Catholic bishops in the U.K. had criticized Lieven’s ruling as an assault on the bodily autonomy of the unnamed mother.

“Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will, and that of her close family, infringes upon her human rights, not to mention the right of her unborn child to life in a family that has committed to caring for the child,” said Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Pro-life politicians in both the U.K. and U.S. also denounced Lieven, who has zealously defended abortion rights in her previous writings and public statements, for allowing her personal bias to affect her interpretation of U.K. law.

“This is deeply troubling but there is no parliamentary route to challenging this decision,” MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Catholic News Agency, which first reported the decision on Friday.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) sent a letter to the Trump administration on Monday urging that it take action to spare the woman from a forced abortion.

“I urge your Departments to quickly investigate this case and, within all applicable laws and regulations, to offer assistance to her and her mother in seeking alternative medical care either in the United States through a temporary non-immigrant visa or through humanitarian parole for a temporary period due to this urgent humanitarian emergency, or at medical facilities in a third country that will not compel her to undergo a forced late-term abortion,” Rubio wrote in a letter provided to National Review.

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