A British court has protected a mentally disabled woman from being forcibly aborted, avoiding a concern pro-life groups had that her baby may be killed simply because of the woman’s mental disability.
A team of doctors in the United Kingdom were seeking an “urgent” ruling from the Court of Protection allowing them to forcibly abort the child of a woman they deem unfit to make the decision herself.
The woman, whose name has been withheld, has sickle cell disease, and she has already suffered from multiple strokes due to the condition. Her doctors think that allowing the woman’s pregnancy to continue may cause further complications and could potentially endanger her life.
However, Mr Justice Hedley ruled that the Court of Protection did not have the jurisdiction to force the unnamed woman to have an abortion. As the London Guardian reports:
The judge said it was important to bear in mind that people with severe learning difficulties who might not be unable to function independently in the community “may very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions about how they conduct their lives”.
These could include decisions about choice of partners, the extent of sexual activity, making permanent relationships “and decisions about their own medical care including, as in this case, the continuation or termination of pregnancy”.
The court heard how the woman’s illness and a series of strokes placed her in the bottom 1 per cent of the population in terms of intellectual functioning.
She lives with her mother and her sister and other members of her family, who provide a supportive network in which she functions well.
Towards the end of last year she discovered she was pregnant, and the matter was brought to the attention of the court.The alleged father was said to be known. The judge said it would not be right for the court to make observations about that.
The woman was always co-operative with her treatment, and there was no reason to believe she would not co-operate over matters relating to her pregnancy. “However, entirely respectable anxiety was raised about her capacity to deal with these matters, in particular her capacity to decide whether or not she wished to continue with the pregnancy,” he said.
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Last September, medical experts in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology, mental health and molecular epidemiology organized a major International Symposium on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare in Dublin, Ireland which concluded that “direct abortion … is not medically necessary to save the life of a mother.”
More than 140 Irish medical professionals attended the Symposium and presented new research and shared clinical experiences on issues surrounding maternal healthcare. Particular attention was paid to the management of high-risk pregnancies, cancer in pregnancy, fetal anomalies, mental health and maternal mortality.
The Symposium’s conclusions were published in a “Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare,” and medical professionals from around the world have been asked to sign onto the declaration which states:
As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.
We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.
The forced abortion case is expected to be presented to the Court of Protection in England this week.
Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, said it is a “complete mockery of justice” that any court could have the power to force doctors to kill a woman’s unborn child.
“Judges and lawmakers around the world have exercised the power to create and uphold the legal ‘choice’ for women to kill their babies through abortion for decades,” Fr. Boquet said. “We shouldn’t be surprised that those in power would also force mothers to kill their children ‘for their own good.’ This is not the first time the ‘choice’ to abort a child has evolved into a requirement that a child be aborted.”
“When the dignity of human life is not respected and upheld for all people at all times, the assaults on the innocent multiply,” he said.