Judge Can’t Order Mentally Disabled Woman to Have Abortion

State   |   Rob Schwarzwalder   |   Jan 18, 2012   |   7:02PM   |   Washington, DC

A judge’s decision to order the abortion of “a mentally ill woman’s unborn baby and sterilize her — if it meant she had to be ‘coaxed, bribed, or even enticed … by ruse’ into the procedure” has drawn appropriate fire from officials in the Bay State.

Judge Christina Harms, who retired from the bench last week, not only wanted to compel the woman known only as “Mary Moe” to have an abortion – a procedure the serious Catholic Ms. Moe said, explicitly, she did not want – but also to sterilize her.

Thankfully, State Appellate Court Associate Justice Andrew R. Grainger has reversed Judge Harms’ ruling, stating that ‘No party requested this measure … and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.” Justice Grainger has now given the case to another judge.

The forced sterilization of roughly 30,000 Americans occurred in our own country in the years leading up to World War II. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, “Between 1907 and 1939, more than 30,000 people in twenty-nine states were sterilized, many of them unknowingly or against their will, while they were incarcerated in prisons or institutions for the mentally ill. Nearly half the operations were carried out in California. Advocates of sterilization policies in both Germany and the United States were influenced by eugenics. This sociobiological theory took Charles Darwin’s principle of natural selection and applied it to society. Eugenicists believed the human race could be improved by controlled breeding.”

The inherent injustice and cruelty of the practice was not only odious to most of our fellow citizens, but its barbarity was cast into horrible relief with the rise of Nazism in German. Hitler’s “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases” (July 14, 1933) compelled “the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, such as mental illness (schizophrenia and manic depression), retardation (‘congenital feeble-mindedness’), physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism.” In addition to the estimated 400,000 persons sterilized, by 1945 up to 250,000 people had been murdered for their real or perceived physical or mental problems.

Sadly, although mass murder in the name of “racial purity” did not occur in out country, as late as 1970, “The Nixon administration dramatically increase(d) Medicaid-funded sterilization of low-income Americans, primarily Americans of color. While these sterilizations (were) voluntary as a matter of policy, anecdotal evidence later suggest(ed) that they (were) often involuntary as a matter of practice as patients (were) often misinformed, or left uninformed, regarding the nature of the procedures that they … agreed to undergo.” (Source)

All of this poses a troubling question: Our society’s outrage over Judge Harms’ decision, while admirable, is much too muted when it comes to the ongoing death of more than 3,000 unborn children daily in the U.S., as is our culture’s compassion for their mothers, who often are “left uninformed” of the other, non-abortion related options they have.

At FRC, we work with dedicated people across the country to provide those better options. That’s why, on Monday, January 23, FRC will launch the second edition of our “A Passion to Serve: How Pregnancy Resource Centers Empower Women, Help Families, and Strengthen Communities.” Make sure to visit our website, A Passion to Serve, where you will be able to download your own free copy on January 23.

LifeNews.com: Rob Schwarzwalder is with the Family Research Council.